Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My 4th Grade Experience

Every quarter, we are required to formally score 3 writings from each student. Seeing as it's the end of the year, I decided to have my students reflect back on their year. I took Monday off as a "mental health day" and had the substitute administer this prompt:

Fourth grade is almost over! We've done a LOT of learning and growing. Please write a paper (to be graded) about your 4th grade experience. You should include:
- An introduction
- Your favorite part(s) of 4th grade
- Your least favorite part(s) of 4th grade/what you would've changed
- Some advice for Ms. Wacek's students next year
- A Conclusion

Before turning it in, please check for spelling, grammar, organization, and neatness.

So that I'm not stressed out later in the week trying to get all my writings scored at the same time as report cards and everything else that comes with this time of year, I was trying to knock a whole bunch out tonight... To calm myself from a stressful day, I turned on some "soft hits" (bad idea!), sat back and started reading. Not even into the second paper, I thought I might lose it. My kids are INCREDIBLE. Not their actual spelling and grammar, per say, but their ideas. :) Reading these papers after a day like today when I felt like all I did was yell at them, they reminded me of exactly why I do what I do, and why I love what I do. :) Aside from their papers so clearly illustrating just how unique and specal each one of them is (some loved social studies, some hated social studies, some couldn't get enough math and some couldn't take another day of math, etc), allowing me a trip down memory lane over the past year, and thinking about each of their special personalities, I was touched by what some of them wrote about me (some of them touched my funny bone, but most of them touched my heart!). Since I can't say it any better than them, I'll give you some examples (mom, again, you'll need tissues.. I sure did!).

"Don't be afraid to talk to people. But there is a time and place and when Ms. Wacek is talking, that's not the time, trust me, I know."

"...This year in 4th grade, we made good friends. Along the way, we let each other down, but we still always love each other (kind of)..."

"In 4th grade, my favorite subject was science, math, and reading..... In 4th grade, my least favorite subject is social studies..... In 4th grade, my favorite food is chicken patty and fries." WHAT? Where was that part of the prompt?! :)

"I would change some of my friends and not hang out with the people that will get in trouble." Well, if he didn't learn anything else this year, that's a pretty solid life lesson, I'd say!

"The advice I have for Ms. Wacek is to treat them like you treated us when they do something bad. You need to discipline them, too. And you don't want to strain your voice." Haha. Thanks for lookin' out, kid!

"Ms. Wacek - next year, give 3 tickets for blue, 2 tickets for green, and 1 ticket for yellow, and try to be nicer." 

"In 4th grade, I loved Math and Science. I was nervous for everything. I did not like the tests because I'm bad at some of them. But, when my teacher believed in me, I did it!" If that doesn't pull on your heart strings, I'm pretty sure you might be heartless!

"The second thing I like about the 4th grade is the teachers. Well, I don't know about all of the teachers, but mine is nice enough. If you need help, she will help you. Please keep teaching me the best you can 'til the end of the year. I just want to say thank you for all the things you have taught me this year."

"I think the school year should've lasted longer. The school year went by quick!" Don't hear that everyday from a 10-year-old on the verge of summer!!

"My teacher Ms. Wacek can be mean. But, she never lets us down and we never let her down. We really care about her and she does too! I will miss my class, but not 4th grade!" This may or may not have been the point at which I completely broke down. Haha.

"I like the way we always do cool projects and things like that. I like how we get candy for things we are already going to do like push in our chairs. That's cool. What I don't like: Nothing. This place is perfect."

"Some advice: Kids, you better watch out because Ms. Wacek is going to blow you away!"

The number of times I messed up this year are innumerable. The number of wrong answers my kids got over the past year are countless. But, when it's all said and done, if I was able to show each of them his or her value and worth and they were able to understand just how important and special they are, it was all worth it. Since it's only my second year teaching, I don't know if I'll be one of those teachers that students look up 20 years down the road and come back and thank for making a difference in their lives. But for what it's worth, at least for now, these 20 little 4th graders can feel loved, valued and smart.

And for future reference, listening to "soft hits" while reading any of the above make them 100x more emotional and touching. :)


  1. Those are hilarious!! I like the fact that you are "nice enough" but you really should "try to be nicer"...haha. Agreed!!!

  2. Monday was a "Mental Health Day", huh? :) I think your kids are going to remember you forever! You are an amazing teacher and role model for the kids! Thank you for everything you do!

  3. Anonymous Mom here...thanks for the tissue warning. Leah and I were supposed to be working on the budget, but we both laughed out loud before we started that 'fun' event. You are amazing, Steph, and I love you dearly. If I'm not mistaken...ONLY TWO MORE WEEKS!!!!! (and maybe when you're here, you can help me learn how to post comments from my own profile so I don't have to be anonymous!)