Here’s the thing about my first year teaching first grade

THere’s the thing about my first year teaching first grade… it’s over! I did it! We did it! Yesterday Glennon (I feel like we’re on a first name basis now for how often I reference her posts) told us to love ourselves and be proud of ourselves for something we’ve done lately. Yesterday I sat with my sixteen little first graders around the same four tables they’ve sat around since August and I asked them what they’ve learned this year. There were a lot of generic responses like, “Math!” and “English!” But there were a couple of responses that warmed my darn heart. One boy said that he learned that putting other people first is important and that is how we show love. One girl simply said, “I learned very good love.”

And that makes me ridiculously proud.

I’m pumped that a lot of my students can read simple words in English. I love that they can ask and answer questions in English. It’s awesome that they can add two-digit numbers and solve story problems. (Okay, let’s talk about that second one though. My baby first graders read and solve story problems on their own in their second language. Proud.) Some of them even remember the difference between a mammal, fish, and a bird and almost all of them know the difference between a noun and a verb.

But praise the Lord this year my students learned how to love each other better.

And every day that was my one desire, my one hope, my one prayer. That the seventeen of us there in that tiny little loud room would learn to love each other better every single day. That we would constantly remind ourselves and each other that “amor dice tu primero” (“love says you first”) and that we would then put each other first.

Today I wrote my last report card comments for these students and one comment got a little lengthy. It was about a boy I’ve known for three years now. We are birthday partners, both celebrating our birthdays in November, which means we both understand that November is actually the best month of the year. Since I taught preschool English at Las Palmas for the past two years, I taught this boy (and many of my other first graders) in preschool and in kindergarten. In kindergarten this boy was known for one thing: homeboy could throw a fit. Man he could cry. For like, hours. Over the silliest things. Over stuff things like not getting the crayon he wanted or someone accidentally kicking him under his chair. I remember his kindergarten teacher trying to calm him down outside the classroom. I remember the snot and the tears mingling together on his uniform shirt and his adorable little face screwed up in frustration and exhaustion.

But that was last year.

This year this little boy was known for two things: running really fast and putting other people first.

What I love about watching this boy put others first is that he would be the very first to admit that sometimes putting other people first SUCKS. Except he wouldn’t say it that way because SUCKS was not one of our English vocabulary words this year. But he might tell you that letting his classmate sit in the blue chair even though he had already been sitting in the blue chair that day was really hard and frustrating. And he’d tell you all about it while he crossed his arms and did this pouty face. (He’s seriously SERIOUSLY cute.) He’d tell you that he had the long pencil with the good eraser FIRST but he’d also let a table-mate have that good pencil because “amor dice tu primero.”

And he’d do it all without crying.

Which is why I got a little sentimental and a little long-winded on his report card comment today. He has shown such growth and maturity this year. He kept putting other people first even though it kept being hard. So today I celebrate him and I celebrate the fact that we all MADE IT through first grade.

We not only survived, but we thrived. ELEVEN of these crazies got all A’s and B’s on their report card all year in all their classes (which are taught in TWO languages). I’m immensely proud of all of them and so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to teach (most of) them for the past three years. They made my first year teaching first grade hard and fun and full of hugs and laughter and too much yelling but even more grace. They forgave me every time I had to apologize for losing my cool and they made me cards and wrote me letters up till our very last day together telling me how much they loved me even though I am so flawed. I understand a great God Who Loves better because of them and I can’t wait to hear about how awesome they do in second grade.


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