The more things change, the more they stay the same. –Alphonse Karr
Last Saturday my cousin got Bar Mitzvahed in New York. I tacked-on a few extra days to my weekend away so Isabelle and I could spend some time with my parents. In addition to spending lots of time with family this past weekend and getting Isabelle’s first hair cut, I visited my old school, P.S. 171, which is located in the East Harlem Section of Manhattan. I didn’t go by myself. With Isabelle in tow, the two of us spent about two hours at P.S. 171 on Monday. During our visit I had the opportunity to not only introduce my daughter to the teachers and staff, but I had the chance to sit down and catch up with former colleagues who are dedicated professionals.
When I left P.S. 171 in June 2007, I was pining for a document camera through DonorsChoose. The only technology I had in my classroom at P.S. 171 was an Apple computer, a printer my students got through a persuasive letter to HP, and an overhead projector. Four and a half years later there are SMART Boards in every classroom! When I walked through the school’s main door, I peeked into my friend Halli’s Social Studies Classroom. Her interactive white board was turned on and ready for use with her seventh graders. I came back and chatted with her while she was having lunch and she told me about the engaging ways she’s integrated the board into her curriculum. In addition, when I surprised my former student teacher, Tiffany, her SMART Board was about to be used for a writing lesson with her Kindergarteners. It was evident to me that the technology doesn’t just sit in classrooms; it’s integrated into lessons daily.
While the classrooms have a different look and feel with the SMART Boards, so many other things have stayed the same. Photographs of children engaged in chess club, reading buddies programs, and writing celebrations still grace the hallways. (There are even a few photos of me with some of my former students at a publishing party held in 2004!) A class of Kindergarteners, a group of fourth graders who were coming up for a special lunch with their teacher, and even random middle schoolers in the hallway went out of their way to greet me and made me feel welcome. The lunch staff still praises the kids for getting quiet quickly when the silent signal is given. Teachers eat together at lunchtime in each other’s classrooms to chat about the day and to collaborate on lesson plans.
Leaving P.S. 171 was not easy for me. I bounced out of bed at 5:00 a.m. every day that I worked there. I loved teaching fifth grade there for a myriad of reasons. [I relocated to Providence, RI to be closer to my husband who had moved there for work in 2006. After living apart for a year (We were planning our wedding at the time.), I was ready to live in the same city again. I loved New York, but I loved Marc more than Manhattan. Therefore, I packed up my apartment and my classroom and left my physical home and my teaching home in July 2007.] I had such a sense of pride walking through the hallways, talking to the staff, and learning about all of the wonderful accomplishments the school has had since I left. The school still runs like a well-oiled machine with the students walking through the hall respectfully as they come back from recess and lunch. But the most wonderful thing I noticed was that almost all of the teachers who taught there in 2007 are still there. The lack of teacher turnover speaks volumes about the dedication of the staff to the students, doesn’t it?
So, now you know where I’ve been (since I’ve been MIA from blogging and keeping up the TWT Facebook Page). Spending time with family and visiting my old school was the perfect way to close-out 2011 as this year comes to a close.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).