Remembering What Is Equally Important

By Jen McDonough

May 20, 2011

It is that time of year when we start to fret. We worry about whether our students have made enough gains under our watchful eye, and if they are going to retain or lose everything we taught them over the summer. We fret about not getting to that great chapter book we knew they'd enjoy or that art project that we thought would inspire.

I was chatting recently with a parent who mentioned that she had run into a former student of mine who was now a ninth grader. After learning who her daughter's teacher was, he mentioned that I had also been his first grade teacher. She asked, "What do you remember most about first grade and Mrs. McDonough?" His reply was, "I don't really remember what I learned, I just know that I was happy!" Of course all I could say was, "Awwwww...that is too sweet!" But more than just being sweet, it got me thinking.

My colleagues and I often joke after a session of planning new curriculum or sweating over what to teach and how to teach it that the only things we actually remember from first grade are if we threw up in class or if the teacher was mean. Good instruction is essential, but perhaps of equal importance is the healthy emotional climate we build, where children feel safe and happy.

So as I finish up this school year and as my worries start to set in, I have decided not to be SO hard on myself. I am giving you permission to do the same as well! If you've provided a strong academic foundation, been quick with a smile, had a hug ready when it was needed, and created a place where kids could safely make mistakes, your students will remember "being happy" too.

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