Sometimes you just miss something and don’t even now how much you miss it until it’s gone.
This is true of sixth grade. Now, that’s not to say I’ve not enjoyed teaching fifth grade and all that went with that, because I have. However, when I got the call about sixth grade in June, after my mini-panic attack about how this could possibly happen, quickly those thoughts turned to the fact I’d be looping with my little crew, an awesome thought indeed!
Of course, I’d not forgotten campout, one of the first things we do as a class each year. We have a great naturalist in our county who’s done a wonderful job over the years of lining up canoes and outdoor activities to do. For the first 11 years, I was part of this team with the other sixth grade teacher and we literally go camping: tents, sleeping bags, s’mores, the whole nine yards. When I was moved, I didn’t realize just how much I’d miss that bonding time with my students, but I certainly did. It’s a time where you get to know your students on a much different level and you build some tremendous memories. I’ve been to graduation open houses where students talked about the sixth grade campout, so you know it makes an impact on what they remember.
Well, far be it from us to have an easy time of things with this! Without consulting me, the sixth grade from the district we are whole grade sharing with was invited! Imagine not talking to me?? The nerve! 🙂 Anyway, it’s not so much that they were invited it was more they were bringing 60 students to our 18. Yikes! So plans had to be redrawn and recreated to accommodate the much larger number of students along with a new camping site as the old one would not have been big enough, nor would the storm shelter have held all of us either. However, a place was there for us to use, so we put it on our schedule and gave everything a shot.
And wouldn’t you know, it went off without too much of a hitch! Weather was perfect, our GPS activity went great, the water safety was fine, the food was done well, on time, and we had plenty! And the students, the students were awesome. I love my class, I really do. They are the smallest class in the school, and while my honeymoon period lasted about 20 minutes this year, we know each other and know where we stand on most everything we do. They were leaders during the campout, helping the other class understand a bit how I do things (as I was a leader too – yikes!).
As you watch students and adults interact, it’s interesting the things you see about yourself and how you do what you do. I feel we have one of the most awesome teaching communities in the state, period. We work hard, we are committed, and we interact with the kids in so many ways. Walking into the campout, I was in the middle of the other students, helping, pushing, joking with, and building relationships with them. As time went on, it just struck me (for about the 43,000th time) this is what I’m meant to do, to teach. Not because I’m always a good teachers, far from it, but because I can build relationships with students so that when the tough times come, they know I care and that I’m not being a harda$$ for the heck of it. It’s easy to build when times are easy, but I want that there for the times where I do need to come down. I think by the end of our time together, I’d started creating some of those relationships, which is a good thing as I’ll be coaching some of those kids next year!
All in all, it was a great time. It was not easy by any means, 78 students, parents, other teachers all of that is tough. However, by putting in the context of what’s good for kids, this is what is good for them, period. Showing them nature, showing the something outside of school, helping them to learn in a different environment, and helping them see that yes, we can make it together, that’s what it’s all about.