Saying Goodbye to My Honors Classes

Friday was my last day at Mason City High School, bittersweet to say the least. Saying goodbye to my Honors 10 group was tough. I had become particularly fond of them. This was probably because I had my first observation in this class and really bonded with the group. It was also probably because I had been the toughest on these kids, giving them feedback on their essays (which were not up to par, but getting there!) and being rather critical of their work.

Here’s my period 5, an awesome group:

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This is my favorite picture, just because of how genuinely happy I am being surrounded by such a smart, positive, and fun group of kids!20151016_140127

This is sixth period, goofy of course:2015101695131224

And here’s our attempt at a serious one 🙂
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My hope throughout the semester was to make these students better–this often meant being hard on them.

On the last day of classes, I handed back their papers over the Old Man and the Sea, which to be frank, had only improved a little from their first summer essays. I gave plenty of D’s and C’s. I only awarded 2 or 3 A’s out of the two class sessions.

Giving back the essays wasn’t how I wanted to have my last class day, but it was a necessary evil. However, my cooperating teacher and I had decided, based on the grades, to offer the opportunity for a rewrite. That would open doors for students and at least give them an opportunity for improvement.

As I handed back the papers, my cooperating teacher and I talked about the things to work on. As we did this, I made a mental list.

Some of the challenges I faced with this group were just in writing mechanics. They struggled so much with sentences, citing, MLA format, and finding legitimate sources. As I reflect, what I should have done, moving into the paper, was a complete re-teaching of essay writing and how to choose a credible source, how to cite, and how to introduce and comment on a citation. Assuming that they were Honors students, and thus would know how to write a paper, was a mistake I made, and one that both my cooperating teacher and I learned in the process.

Despite the papers, this group still had fun on the last day. We chatted about their new project, comparing the 1930’s to the 1960’s and talking about the differences between the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird and the time period that the author, Harper Lee, was writing in. We also talked about my future plans–where I was headed next, where I would teach, what I was doing/planning on doing with my life.

I learned an incredible amount from this group–how to push students, how to motivate, how to support their learning, how to teach in different ways, and how to break down the mechanics of writing and reading.

As the students walked out of class, several said they would miss me, that I was a great teacher, and they learned a lot. Their words melted my heart. One student even came back at the end of the day to take a picture with me! 🙂

As I reflect on my experience, I enjoyed the challenge of teaching Honors students. And I’ve also realized the responsibility, as a teacher, to push my students. One thing I told them on the last day, “Don’t be discouraged by the grade on your paper. You are all capable and you are all good writers. I have to be tough on you to make you better. You’ll look back on this one day and you won’t hate me. But in the meantime, stay positive. I believe in each one of you.” Hopefully these words stick with them as much as their positive words stick with me. I’ll miss them.

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