Looking back and learning

This afternoon a former student was bagging my groceries at PCC, when I asked if she remembered “old Mr. Ahlness, from third grade”. I got a big smile and hug. This student was in my 2000-01 3rd grade classroom. Pre 911, and pre NCLB. When I got home, I looked back at the class website, online at the old school website, because I wanted to place her with her classmates, and in time.

What a sweet group of kids they were, I thought. What a carefree time, I thought. And yet, her mother died the year she was in my classroom. I remember her mom coming in for Show and Tell one Friday to talk with the kids about her cancer. There are always extremely difficult things – but some of them hold much more meaning than others.

I spent a few minutes (ok, more) browsing through pictures of ten years of teaching third graders. I can’t do that anymore, sorry – all stuff about students about my school is now available behind a wall, to parents only, on the new website. Unfortunately, they do not link back to the old school website. What a shame. You can be sure I have the signed permission of the parent of every single child pictured on The Room 12 Top Ten List – for them to be pictured there.

For the last seven years I taught, I discontinued updating  the webpage I had created (which had landed us in Newsweek and – without permission – in Mr. Gates’ The Road Ahead) – and started blogging with my third graders. This picture is of the first group, back in 2005. It was another remarkable group, not so much in terms of sweetness, but in terms of tenacity and fearlessness. Isn’t it interesting that a group can remain characterized in such a way? I know it to be pretty accurate, as it didn’t happen that long ago. These kids will be juniors in high school next year. They were/are a remarkable group.

They came to me that way. Despite my pretty good teaching chops, I did not mold this group. Ask any teacher. Do not look at a set of standardized test scores. My goals with them were to encourage creativity, break down walls (via technology), and help in the creation of caring, dedicated, passionate, and inquisitive young people. I presented opportunities, showed the way, and then stood out of the way. Test scores? Please.

Back to today in the grocery store. That group back in 2000-01 was sweet, but here’s the same picture this post started with, taken a few seconds later. Kids love to play, to mess around, to have fun. That is the one thing I miss the most about teaching – getting to let your hair down (when I still had some)  and enjoy being/learning together. We also lived through one of the largest earthquakes in our state’s history. Whew, that was a year.

Finally, a short video of the Room Twelve Cheer, something I made up and taught to year after year of third graders in Room 12. This was something just for fun, where kids were just being crazy kids, following their nutso teacher. Most importantly these days, I hope people remember that these 15 seconds happened in school. This is from that first group of bloggers, in 2005-06, on the last day of school:

Then, as with all highly produced videos, there is the (17 second) blooper:

About Mark Ahlness

I am a retired teacher, with dreams of still making a difference.
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1 Response to Looking back and learning

  1. Denise says:

    Wonderful post. I only had one student in my art career, but the rewards were huge. It must be so nice to look back on all those precious times.

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