I have watched the movie “Apollo 13” at least eight times since its release and can remember it play by play down to the quotes and puns. A few days ago, my fifth graders went to the moon via a space mission made possible by the Columbia Memorial Space Museum in Downey, California. When we returned to the classroom, I decided to show them the movie so they can make connection with the standards they learned while in the Space Lab.
One of the scenes showed when Kevin Bacon’s role was suffering from CO2 intoxication and he became obsessed with potentially pressing the release valve to detach the hub from the work station; knowing the consequences of the action, he put a post-it note on the switch with a big “NO” on top. On the way back to Earth, Bacon was asked by Tom Hanks, who played the role of Jim Lovell Jr., why the note was there. Swigert, played by Bacon, explained his dilemma and said that “he did not want to forget it (not to press the button)”. As I sat there watching the movie with the kids, some of them commented, “Good thing that he put a note there to remind himself.” Who would have known that a simple reminder has saved the day.
Ever since I completed my doctoral studies, I felt that life was supposed to be leading me to something new and more exciting. I wanted to pursue other possibilities in life, but the economy took a down turn and there were no jobs on the horizon. Reluctantly I went back to the classroom teaching the fifth grade after three years of administration work. I had forgotten the joy that I felt when I used to teach. I told myself that this was temporary and I would eventually do something “bigger”, “better”.
I was blessed with a group of 33 amazing children this school year. Each day, I see how they learn to learn, to respect, to stand on what they believe, and to grow in esteem and self-reliance. The sense of accomplishment was incomparable to anything I have ever done before. I talk about these students all the time, even my father-the strongest critic of my work, said that I was totally “in my element” and it would be wrong to think about doing anything else. I began to struggle with the idea of “moving on to better things”. I began to see that, maybe I was in a better thing already.
Last Friday, these children surprised me with a birthday celebration that was out of this world. The parents and the kids arrived onsite in the evening the night before, tracked down the night custodian, and decorated the classroom with balloons and streamers. When I walked into the room in the morning, there hung a banner with all of the students’ signatures and good wishes. As I read each of the cards made by the students, I realized how much I was respected and loved. As educators, teachers often think that they are esteem-builders and life-changers. On Friday, I learned that students are, too, in their very own ways.
I brought home all of the cards made by the kids and placed all the colorful sentiments in a box. As I closed the lid on the box, I wrote on top, “Feel Good File- Don’t Ever Forget.” If you are having a hard day, go back to the selected good moments that you have had in the past and collect your “Feel Good” file. Once you realize how much you are or were loved, don’t ever forget.