Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Off

For this weekend's Trifextra challenge, we are being asked to write 33 perfect words about what summer means to us. I am going to launch right in and expand upon my post after you've had a chance to give it a gander.


Summer Off

The school year always begins in an empty classroom;
a teacher amid groups of girls and boys.

It ends with an empty classroom
and faint echoes.

I face summer's sun
                               alone,
                                         in silence.



First of all, allow me to take a final opportunity to thank all of you for welcoming some of my students into your ranks during our school year.  "What's the prompt this week?" became a question asked far more frequently, by far more students, than I ever would have dreamed possible when I first dared broach the divide between my world and theirs by introducing them to Trifecta via the challenge concerning personification.   Through your encouraging comments and extremely warm welcome, my students entered a world they thought off-limits because they were just kids or not talented enough.  But, you helped prove to them that they were worthy and that, what they felt and thought actually had merit.  What a powerful, powerful gift to give to children who thirst for affirmation and so rarely receive it.  Thank you.  Thank you.  On their behalf, thank you ever so much.

Because I live for moments like those mentioned above, the transition to summer vacation mode is a difficult one for me.  For the past ten months, I have been involved in a myriad of moments; small and big, that touched my heart and made my proud of how I have chosen to live my working life.  But, then, on the day after the last day of school, the kids are suddenly gone.  The school is sooooo quiet and the classroom, sooooo empty and dusty and still.  The silence is always jarring.  To go from being the centre of the universe to being the centre of only my own world; initially, always feels like a come down.  It takes a good week or two to get the adrenalin to drain from my body and for me to finally begin to relax.  I enjoy my summer off, once the teacher in me decides to power down but, it is not as easy a transition as most people may think.  When the kids leave for home on that last day, the cliched image is of the teachers cheering and dancing in the hallways. Truth is, I tend to miss them the moment the door closes.

I will close by giving you one final chance to hang with Cheyenne.  At home, on her own, this past weekend, she posted the following story.  She never said a word about it to me. I guess she doesn't have to, does she?  She is a writer now, after all.  :)

Happy summer to each and every one of you.

45 comments:

  1. You have done a great job with your class kids, Tom. Thank you for sharing them with us. I hope you have a great summer off.

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    1. Thanks, Barb! But, it wouldn't have meant a thing if Trifectans hadn't rolled out the welcome mat so generously and easily. All that I really did was facilitate the connection between like-minded people from around the world. Giving the kids the experiences and opportunities is what I do. Glad it worked out so well this time around.:)

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  2. I'm sure teachers do hear echos of students long after they've left their classrooms. Now into summer you go! :))

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    1. It is the weirdest feeling to sit alone in a classroom after the kids are gone for the summer. It is so quiet. There is so much empty space. Their energy makes a classroom what it is. When they are gone, the room is just a room and sitting there alone is not where I want to be in the summer. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comments. :)

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  3. This only shows what an amazing teacher you are Tom. Wish I was one of your students... I still can be... Can't I??

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    1. Of course you can come and hang out in our classroom! It is a great place to be; especially if you like to write, apparently. :)

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  4. Ah, a teacher! Good teachers are always appreciated and remembered fondly.

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    1. Glad to hear that. I hope that you had a few good teachers along the way, too. I would venture to guess that approx. 1/3 of my Facebook friends list is comprised of former students. It is great to watch them grow up, graduate, go to their proms all dolled up, get married, travel and so on. Even though they may be in their twenties, some of them, none of them call me Tom, most still call me, Mr. M. At the core of it, teaching is about relationships and connections and trust. I have enjoyed by 24 years so far.
      Thanks for our comments. :)

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  5. Wow, this give me chills. I'm so thankful the world has teachers like you. We need more. I have a feeling we might find some in the students you inspire.

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    1. Thanks, Emily. That first few days without the kids is always a weird time. I guess it just goes to prove that I end up needing them as much as they end up needing me. But, don't get me wrong, once I unwind, my summer with my family is always very special. Having summers off is a tremendous perk of the job.
      Thanks for stopping by with your comments. I appreciate them a lot.

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  6. What you said about your students and their reactions to our comments, made my day. Your students are very talented, and they can thank you for sparking that writing fire. Hope you have a rejuvenating summer.

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  7. Summer is always good, once it gets going. It is the "getting going" that is always the awkward part. I am glad that you guys and the kids connected so well. Hayley and Olivia will be graduatiing from my school and heading off elsewhere next year but, Cheyenne will be back. I imagine several others will step up and join the Writing Club next year, too. So, get ready for more talented writers coming forward. Glad you enjoyed the kids as much as they enjoyed you. :) Hope you and your family have a great summer, Tara.

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  8. what an amazing person you are Tom, and it shows in how you care about the children in your care and in your classroom.

    I teared up reading your homage to them.

    although the classroom is empty now, the echoes of those students are safe inside your head and heart. HAPPY SUMMER my friend.

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    1. Thanks, Kir, as always for your heartfelt, supportive words. As Trifecta did for my guys, you and your words do for me. Thanks for everything you do to make the world better for those you meet. :)

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  9. Tom! How lucky you are to have found your calling. A teacher is what you were born to do! You are making the world a better place on a daily basis! May all the good you put out come back to you a thousand fold! And I hope this summer is your best one so far! :D

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    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Linda. I agree with you that I am so very fortunate to do what I do for a living. To be able to make a positive difference in the lives of others is an honour and a responsibility that I embrace. That I earn a good wage and get the summer off is pure gravy. I hope I find life to be as rich when I retire in 2018. :)

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  10. This was so bittersweet and beautiful! You sound like a wonderful teacher Tom-remembered fondly long after summer has come, and gone:)

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    1. Thank you very much, Valerie. I appreciate you comments very much. As for being a wonderful teacher........I am sure that to some kids, I am their favourite teacher. To aome, for one reason or another, we have made a connection that was as meaningful to them as it was to me. Those are the kids who I have watched grow up into incredible adults via Facebook or by meeting upmwith them in person. However, not every student loves me. To some, I'm a complete ass because I was on their case to do better work or behave differently than they wanted to. Unfortunately, failures go hand-in-hand with successes. But, good, bad or otherwise, I remember them all; especially on the day after the last day of school.

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  11. "and faint echoes" - I can only imagine. I still feel like I can hear kids every time I step foot in a school, whether they are present or not. Tom, your postscript was beautiful. I hope your kids keep writing and keep participating in Trifecta challenges. I think it was inspired of you to try this out with them! I hope my two boys end up with a teacher like you.

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  12. Thank you very much. I was happy to try Trifecta out with them. I was happy that the three girls actually made it to the point of putting something up for your comments. Many others gave it a go but, had trouble with the word count and with having to edit their stories down. But, just the same, interest was good among many of the kids for the whole time we joined up with Trifecta. Each time one of the girls posted and received comments, we would gather as a whole class and read through the comments together. It was always a big deal for the girl, in question. I would print off the comments, along with the story and send them home for them to share with their families. I can guarantee you that Hayley, Cheyenne and Olivia are probably the only members of their families to ever have received correspondence from writers from around the world!!! In any case, this project was very worthwhile in many regards. Hopefully, next year, we can pick up where we left off and do it all over again. :)

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  13. I adore your heart, Tom. Thanks for sharing it (I mean, YOU) with the rest of us, after giving so much to so many others. :)

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    1. Thanks, Jody. As for sharing my heart, what is the point if not to share it with others? Doing so makes my world a better place. It makes me happy. There are a whole bunch of people in Trifectaville who do it, too. That is part of what makes this community such a great place to hang out in and, to bring others into, as well. :)

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  14. Aw, Tom, you are such an inspiration! I love your submission, love the glimpse it gives us into who you are and why you are such a fantastic teacher. And thanks for sharing Cheyenne's story with us too. That girl has some serious talent. I guarantee she will remember you forever for the world you've opened for her. I know I remember the teacher who did that for me almost every time I sit down to write. Damn, now I'm all weepy! :)

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne, for your very kind words about me and, especially, about Cheyenne. Promoting the kids in the eyes of people such as you was the very best part of the school year. Too many people equate achievement in schools with report cards and test scores. Doing so fails to recognize the fantastical achievement of taking kids on social assistance, from broken homes, surrounded by addiction and violence and hunger and having their words sit alongside those of esteemed writers from the four corners of the globe, as equals. As writers. That is completely awesome to me! Thanks to you, Suzanne, for helping to make this achievement happen for kids like Cheyenne, Olivia and Hayley.

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    2. :) I'm still all weepy. Blogging would have made such a difference for me as a young writer. I'm so thrilled to be a part of it now. If there is ever anything more I can do, please don't hesitate to ask.

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    3. Whatta ya have in mind? I'd be thrilled to hook you up with the kids in any capacity. Let me know what your thoughts are and we can go from there. It could be as simple as acting as a mentor to the Cheyenne's of the world in a Skype sort of way or, you could travel down the highway and come hang out in person, help with workshops, story conferences........whatever you want. Your offer to help is a very generous one. You may do as little or as much as you wish. If you would rather help me on my end then, that is fine, too. No decisions are necessary now. After all, we do have the summer to flesh things out. :) Thanks, again, Suzanne, for your willingness to become involved. You are a lovely person and your interest is most welcome.

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    4. Sorry for taking so long to reply. I just came to read this. Any of the options you mentioned would be great. Why don't you send me an email and we can talk about it some more? My address is spurkis (at) rogers.com

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  15. The silence must be welcome at first, and then I bet you look forward to the friendly chaos again. Great entry.

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    1. I love being in the middle of the action; of being necessary and needed. To suddenly not be the centre of anyone's universe anymore is what quakes at my soul in that first day after the kids are gone. Thanks for stopping by with your comments, Kylie. I appreciate them very much. :)

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  16. When I was in marching band in high school, I experienced that eerie stillness in an empty school quite often. No doubt it's different for a teacher, but to me the silence brought this feeling that anything could happen. Maybe that's a little strange but it's how I always felt when walking the empty halls to the band room ^__^

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    1. I'm all distracted now. I have My Chemical Romance's, "Welcome to the Black Parade" going through my head. Trust me, it is different for teachers and for students in the emptiness of spaces that are supposed to be filled. I prefer my classroom to be filled with their energy.

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  17. Oh Tom, you know those kids will never leave you, truly. And the ones you taught before will remember you too. (I know I can still recall some of my teachers with fondness.) So, you'll always have the memories to fall back upon, and before you know it those halls and classrooms will be filled with students' energy once again. It might be a different set of kids, but your role as their mentor won't have changed. No doubt you'll re-fill that role with the same enthusiasm and success.

    And please be sure to share Trifecta your new students, if you'd like. We greatly enjoyed getting to know your young writers. Your new and old students will always be welcome at Trifecta!

    Thank you for linking up. Please be sure to return for the voting!

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    1. Thanks for everything you have done to help facilitate the entry of my guys into your world. I can have all the good intentions in the world but, without a receptive partner on the other end, it is all just wishful thinking. Hopefully, next year's crew will continue to bear more fruit. I have Cheyenne coming back so, that will be a good place to start. In the meantime, have a wonderful summer and enjoy the Meet-up. Should be a blast!

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  18. Very poignant... PS...come join this challenge too! http://yepirategunn.weebly.com/2/post/2013/06/ligo-haibun-challenge-1406-2106.html

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    1. Thanks.....and, I will certainly check out your challenge. Thanks for the invite.

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  19. I echo everyone else, this as lovely and captured perfectly that feeling of closing a door on a room that you don't want to leave. I don't suppose you could teach summer school? :)

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  20. Thank you for your kind words. I don't want anyone to misinterpret my words here. I do actually enjoy summer vacation with my family but, it is just that it takes a bit of time to transition from the hyper-busy state of being involved in so many lives to the, relative peacefulness of only being the centre of my own family life......and, even then, Dad often comes in fourth place out of the four people in the house. :) But, that moment, when the students are gone and I sit there in the quiet of the empty room well, that moment, always moves me. I am happy not to teach summer school. :)

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  21. The echoes of students past never really leave a school. I work in the original school building in our district, and it seems as alive to me as if there were still students roaming the halls instead of the Superintendent.

    I understand your feeling--you will miss all those kids who shared so much with you for ten months. While you were their teacher, they were somehow 'yours', and you're not just ready to let them go in your heart. That just tells me that you're a true teacher, and not just marking time until something better comes along. :-)

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    1. Absolutely! Good teachers want to be in the middle of the action. So, when the "action" disappears and the void fills with quiet, it is an adjustment, for sure. Sounds like you know what I mean. Thanks for your very kind words. They are appreciated.

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  22. I often thought it would be great to be a teacher. What better job than also being off in the summer time. Later, my 11th grade year in high school, I took Child Care 1. Granted these were small children ranging from age 3 to 4. Yet, I seen that with lesson plans, activities, naps, lunch, planning each day weeks in advance, it would require a lot of dedication and hard work. I also decided that year, I never wanted children. lol. Now, two daughters ages 11 and 7, of course I am blessed. Teachers make a huge impact on students, some negative, some positive. I have often heard some teachers say that if they could get through to one student there job was worthwhile. While opting out of choosing teaching, I have a lot of respect for teachers. Several made lifelong impressions in my life. I'm sure I would miss the students when summer arrived. I guess it's bittersweet to meet a brand new group of faces, while missing the ones that occupied your class the year before. Great description of the ending of a school year.

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    1. Thank you for such a thoughtfully-written reply. I appreciate your gesture very much.

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  23. Your piece expresses perfectly what you represent, Tom. Congrats on a great year!

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  24. That was intense Tom. An empty School is a sad place. Nice to hear about your students and amazing that you are taking an effort to reach out to them. Great that a teacher doesnt just stop at the book. Shaping young minds need a lot of give and take and more than the talk, the walk. You are doing such a wonderful job.

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind and supportive words. They mean a lot to me. Thanks. :)

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