But this year, I find that I'm not craving summer like I usually am. I've only felt this way once before - May of 2008 - when I was packing up and leaving Cameron...& some of the best kids I've taught in my career.
In the fall of 2008, I started teaching at Consol: 2 sophomore & 3 freshmen classes. I hated the thought of teaching freshmen & I wasn't looking forward to it. Little did I know, that I would fall in love with those kids and move up with them every year.
Fall of 2009, I had 2 sophomore classes and 3 senior classes. I had some repeater kids in my 10th grade class and it was fun teaching kids I'd taught before. It was my first year teaching seniors and they were challenging, so my sophomores became my comfort zone. I adored them and thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend my time with them.
Fall of 2010, I got my wish: all juniors all day! My favorite age group & my favorite group of kids. I had some old kids from my previous 2 years and it was one of my best years ever.
Fall of 2011, I was back to a split: honors juniors (3 classes) & seniors (2 classes). I wasn't happy about the honors classes (more on that later), but I was tickled to be teaching seniors. This would be my 4th year with this class and when I looked at my rolls, I noticed that I had taught half of the kids before. I actually have taught one kid all 4 years!
The year started great & then my dad had his stroke in September. I remember thinking that I wouldn't have the energy or the patience to deal with things and I wondered how in the world I was going to get through an entire teaching year when I had to deal with the health issues of my dad.
I shouldn't have worried. I'm a firm believer in the fact that God puts people in your life when & where you need them. These kids were who I needed to be around for 9 months while I dealt with his health issues & subsequent passing. They brought me cokes, coffee, chocolate...all sorts of things. I rec'd handwritten notes and texts from them asking about me and checking on me in the early days of his hospital stays. I even rec'd messages from parents asking about me and letting me know that they were praying for me.
The health issues with my dad prompted Stan & I to get our lives on track and get healthy. Since mid-October, he has lost 135 lbs. and I've lost 50 lbs. I've enjoyed our lifestyle shift. Where we used to come home, sit on the couch, & watch TV, we now come home and work out, go on walks; we're much more active now. I hate that the impetus was so tragic, but I'm thankful that we're healthier and we're making sure Caden is growing up healthier as well.
Having somewhere to go and something to focus on has made my days, not just bearable, but exciting. For 8 hours a day, I get to be Mrs. Aalbers and enter full 'teacher-mode.' And these kids have made it easy. I saw kids who struggled as freshmen and sophomores blossom this year. I've seen kids I thought would drop out, enter the military or start making plans to go to college. I've written countless recommendation letters and received countless thank you letters this year.
I thank God every day for my job and the chance to catch these kids at the end of the 'assembly line' before they go off into the world on their own. I hope that I've given them as much as they've given me this year. I am thankful that God put me with my seniors and the honors kids this year. My honors classes weren't where I wanted to be & I didn't go into it open-minded, but I learned so much about myself as a teacher and I loved the challenge. They presented their own challenges, but they're so smart & fun; I LOVED them!
All of this is to say that this has been both the worst year, & the best year. And I'm sad that it's ending and I have to say goodbye to my kids. Because that's how I feel about them - that they're my kids. I'm so excited for them and proud of them, but I feel like a parent watching the birds leave the nest. I am thankful for what they've meant to me this year and I wish them nothing but the best.