Here are some highlights from the final two weeks of school.
I couldn't let one of my students leave without getting a picture of him swinging from trees. We spent the first few months trying to stop him but around November we stopped fighting it and just let him climb. He's from Vietnam and frequently tells me how he would climb to the top of trees and jump from one tree to the next. He is also the fastest runner in the school, is constantly barefoot outside, and can jump over scary heights. I love this kid and hope to get invited to his track meets.
We have 20 countries represented at our school. Just in my homeroom class alone I have students from Thailand, Burma, Cuba, Nepal, Vietnam, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mexico, El Salvador, and the United States. The ESL teachers organized an outstanding International Night to celebrate the cultures. Families came dressed in traditional clothes and brought homemade food. We served small portions of tamales, tacos, pastries, rice and beans, stews, curries, etc. There were also crafts and exhibits from numerous countries and the families had a "passport" that was stamped at each station. It was hands down my favorite school event.
The fifth grade safety patrol and recycling team went on an end of year field trip to an indoor water park. We all celebrated when this student played in the water. This particular child is wheelchair bound due to severe cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, his disability is not his greatest challenge. The family is homeless and we have documented cases of neglect. The child wears diapers and on more than one occasion he has come to school in the same diaper that his aid initialed at 3 p.m. the day before. Despite the hardships, he is filled with joy. There was an overwhelming sense of pride and love on all of our faces as we played together weightlessly.
Thursday was our highly anticipated Moving Up (aka graduation) Ceremony. The 5th grade teachers have given up planning for the last two weeks to organize the event. We had to teach the students the three songs, how to process down the aisle, how to smoothly transition from the risers on stage to their seats, and how to walk across the stage and shake hands while receiving their certificates. My nerves were shot, but the final event was flawless. There were many, many tears shed by students, parents, and teachers. Here are some of my boys that have given me a run for my money this year.
I can't include a post about my class without emphasizing my love for Tluang (pronounced Twong). If anything were to ever happen to her I would absolutely adopt her. She calls me mother and I frequently refer to her as my daughter. She is a refugee from Burma and just moved to the United States last year. God only knows what she experienced before she came since the country is known for it's military regime with high rates of human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and torture. She will not discuss much about her country, though I know her father was killed there. Despite her intelligence, it will take her a few years to catch up to English reading comprehension and vocabulary. Tluang didn't utter a word the first week of school. Now she sings, smiles, picks flowers, holds my hand down the halls, and greets me with a full hug every morning and afternoon.
Here is the 5th Grade Class of 2012. This has been my most challenging year so far, but I know we have all taught one another so much beyond reading, math, and science.