A Sad Goodbye

Today is my last day working as a guest media specialist at Hampton Elementary. I’ve been here since October, and I am both happy and ridiculously sad to leave. (Yep, there were tears this morning…but in my defense, I was reading aloud a story about a girl whose grandfather was dying and the chapter was called “A Sad Goodbye” and there was a student sobbing because she just recently lost her grandfather…so you see, it couldn’t be helped!)

Happy, because for so many months I’ve felt anxious and guilty about not being able to be my BEST when it comes to being Wife and Mom, and now that I am taking a break, a huge weight has been lifted and I feel like I can breathe again. (I feel like there’s at least one post about Mom Guilt forthcoming on this page….) Happy, because even though I will still be waking up at 5:30 to get my kids ready for school, I get to crawl back in bed, or at least back to the couch, and spend some alone time with my coffee, and eventually, my 4th grader, who is always extra snuggly in the morning. Happy, because I get to be there when my 6th grader gets dropped off at 2:30. I get to be there to ask her about her day when all the details are still fresh and she hasn’t become too distracted by her homework or devices to resort to those deeply unsatisfying one- or two-word answers or grunts. I feel like I haven’t been there for her the way I should’ve been, in this pivotal year of her young life. Gosh, when did she become a sixth grader? A MIDDLE SCHOOLER!?! I am in awe that she’s survived — no, excelled — thus far…without/in spite of me.

Happy, because I will finally have some time — even if it’s just an hour or two during the day — to do something completely selfish…I miss classes at the Y, I miss mid-day naps (even if I rarely take them), I miss Hulu/Netflix binges, I miss teas and lunches with my friends! I haven’t had the chance to do any of this for a while…probably not since last January, when my library internships/MLIS exams started to roll in. I am going to brush away that ever-present guilty feeling and say YES to all these things, at least for the next couple of weeks! I am going to read books for GROWN-UPS!!! And who am I kidding — I will be reading lots of everything else too.

Happy, because I will now have time to meet up with hubby for lunch dates, and be awake enough at the end of the day to spend time with him and TALK to him, instead of falling asleep with the girls every day at 9:30…okay, sometimes even earlier. I am sure he’ll be happy about this too.

But there’s a lot of sad too. Sad, because I do LOVE my work! I love the books and the cataloging and the teaching and the minutia of shelving and shelf-reading (…okay, maybe not that). I love gushing about my favorite authors and hearing students gush about theirs too.

Sad, because I am secretly afraid that this is it…that I will have gotten a small taste of what its like to feel 100% fulfilled and passionate and sure that I am IN THE RIGHT PLACE, only to never have it again.

Sad, because I’ve made friends at work, with dedicated teachers, paraprofessionals, and parent volunteers that I see day in and day out, tirelessly helping other people’s children succeed. How they continue to do this everyday, despite all the frustrations and drama that come with the job, amazes and inspires me. Seriously y’all, next time you see your child’s teacher, give them a big hug or a quick thank you — it’ll make their day no matter how small you think your gesture is.

Sad, most of all, because I will miss the students…yes, even the ones that struggle to sit still or follow directions. I will miss especially the ones who struggle, but who try really hard anyway. Never underestimate those quiet kids, or the ones who challenge your every word, or the ELL kids, or the ones that need various accommodations, or the ones who question everything you say, every book you recommend. Don’t dismiss those kids, because I can honestly say that not a day went by when I was not surprised by one of them or when I didn’t learn from them. They’ve taught me patience, grace, and forgiveness, and I look at myself and my own daughters differently because of them. Some days were truly difficult (just ask my husband and kids), but I would return in a heartbeat.

For now, though, it’s time to take off. I am sad, but I have an armful of cards and flowers that the kids and staff have given me to remind me of the good times here. Already I have plans to come back in a few weeks, but not before I’ve had a proper marathon of PJs, Downton Abbey, and tea.


Assessing Collaboration

Starting in February, 3rd through 5th graders were put into groups of 3 or 4 to collaborate on author studies.  They were given guidelines on what information they need to include in their final presentations, and groups were given graphic organizers to take notes on.  I taught a lesson on collaborating using Google Slides, where group leaders have to create the initial document and share it with group members using school email addresses. Group leaders also have to work with their members to figure out who will work on each slide: one introducing the author, one on his/her life, one on his/her writing, etc.

Group Assignments: I made up the groups based on what I know about the students’ personalities and performance.  Though the students groaned a little about not being able to work with their friends, I wanted each group to have a good mix of high and low kids. Because there is a considerable ELL population at the school, I also made sure they didn’t end up in their own group.

Working in Google Slides: Setting up the project in Google Slides proved to be a big learning curve for the students, even for those who are usually tech-savvy. We also ran into problems where students were working outside their assigned slides, or deleting them accidentally/on purpose. Even though Google apps have a “See revision history” function that allowed us to restore lost work, it still created some tension among the students. This was a good way for students to learn what it’s like to collaborate in the “real world”: they needed to be responsible and accountable not only to and for themselves but to and for their teammates as well.  In the real world, even if honest mistakes can be reverted, one still has to deal with possible repercussions.

Group Dynamics: Because students did not get to choose their teammates, certain groups worked more effectively than others. I allowed students to decide their roles on their own based on how confident they are about their abilities to create and share Google Slides, as well as their ability to lead other group members.  For the most part, the natural leaders of each group emerged and were able to help their members stay on task effectively.  Some groups, on the other hand, did not work well together at all, and the constant battle within the group are clearly reflected in their finished products/presentations. There is usually a lack of content, effort, and cohesiveness.

As we come to the end of this group project, I posted a survey in Google Classroom for each of the students to complete. I am hoping that this final piece of the assignment will not only give me insight as to the success (or lack thereof) of their collaboration process, but also allow the students to assess their own contribution (or lack thereof) to this experience.  Findings will be posted soon!


For more on assessing collaboration, see:

Siko, Jason. “Assessing Collaboration: More Than Just Lip Service.”MACUL Journal Winter 36.2 (2016): 8-9. Web.