Thursday, June 1, 2017

New journey

Steve loved this story:

In the middle of second grade, my mom, sister and I moved from Dallas to Belton. I sat in a second-grade classroom for a week, then the principal called a meeting and suggested that I move to third grade.

So I finished that school year at Leon Heights Elementary as a third-grader.

We returned to Dallas, to the same house that hadn't sold, and my mom tried to enroll me in fourth grade. The Dallas principal was incredulous and sent me back to third grade.

I sat in a third-grade class for the first week, mostly getting scolded for writing in cursive. (Brand-new third-graders weren't supposed to know how.)

My dad found out and insisted that I be moved to fourth grade. The principal imposed a test with a ridiculously high passing rate. I passed.

So, I went to fourth grade at Burnet Elementary.

While there, I noticed that some of my new friends were in a class that involved creative group projects and logic puzzles. It seemed like the class for me. I would ask my classroom teachers and my mom about it, but no one really listened.

Finally, at the end of fourth grade, I sidled up to Mrs. LaPrade in the hallway and told her that I thought I should be in her Talented and Gifted class.

She arranged the testing, and I passed.

For a few glorious months of fifth grade, I was in Mrs. LaPrade's TAG class. We solved problems and talked about Bloom's Taxonomy and worked on a big projects.

Then, in the middle of fifth grade, we moved. This time, though, I was prepared. I didn't want to wait another year to get into the class that I knew was meant for me. I asked Mrs. LaPrade for a letter that I could give to my new teacher in Austin, to speed up the TAG application process.

I held on to that letter for a couple of weeks, until I found the teacher I could trust the most at Gullett Elementary. I chose the music teacher, who was the most welcoming.

She read the letter (or maybe just skimmed it) and arranged for a test. The next afternoon, I listened to music notes and was supposed to choose the next note. Good gracious, I had no idea what to do and had no understanding of how this test would help me get back into TAG.

I failed that test miserably, and the music teacher told me that I wouldn't be in the advanced choir.

I never asked for Mrs. LaPrade's letter back.

We moved again in fifth grade, this time back to Belton. Mrs. LaPrade's letter was gone. So was my confidence. I worked hard and hoped that one day I'd get back in TAG.

I breezed through sixth grade. Toward the end of that year, my reading teacher, Mrs. Creek, called me up to her desk and told me I didn't belong in her class. She thought I needed to be in the TAG language arts class. I'm certain that I cried.

From that point forward, I remained in the program in Belton and then Carrollton-Farmers Branch. My friends from TAG at Newman Smith High School remain some of my closest friends today.


Those TAG teachers understood how to work with our quirkiness. They figured out how to motivate us, how to challenge us, how to nurture our unusual qualities. (Being identified as a gifted learner isn't always a bed of roses. There are all kinds of side effects, such as asynchronous development, emotional intensity and extreme sensitivity.)

In an incredible stroke of luck, I get to try to be one of those teachers.

Tomorrow is my final day as a fourth-grade teacher at Hosp Elementary, the school that I helped open three years ago. I have loved my years at Hosp -- working with amazing children and their families, becoming more confident as a teacher, collaborating with incredible colleagues. Yet I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try middle school.

Beginning this August, I will teach integrated language arts to sixth- and seventh-grade gifted and talented students at Pearson Middle School. The campus is close enough for me to walk to work (Katie does it every day). I'll be teaching many of the same children I've taught at Hosp. My mentor teacher will be Cooper's GT teacher from seventh and eighth grade. Katie and I will have the same schedule again. (The logistics this year, with three of us on different campuses with different schedules, have been workable but tricky.)

I'll be weepy tomorrow as I say goodbye to my Hosp babies and finish packing my classroom, but I'll also be giddy as I move furniture and boxes into my new Pearson room in anticipation of the new year and my new opportunity.

I think Steve would love this part of the story, too.

My homeroom class this year