Today was my last day of teaching. Since the bulk of the day was a field trip, this will be a short piece. Today was also the last day of school before Winter Break. After various discussions with Mrs. Shapiro, we agreed I would meet my class at Holly for the field trip rather then coming to Shay first, and then return to Shay to complete the day.
Shay, with its rich music culture, has traditions it follows for celebrating the holidays. (In 1999, when Dr. Palmer-Young went to England to visit with an English school system, and two English school administrators came to visit the school, Mr. Liederlassen invited the students to sing a mix of English and American songs for the administrators. He rewrote one sing, “Consider Yourself,” from the musical Oliver by stating that Shay was part Oxford and part Hollywood. In short, we were a school that liked to perform as well as being a good school.)
The holiday traditions are as follows: In the morning, all the students from Shay (enrollment: 433) and Kress schools (enrollment: 288), the two district elementary schools, are bussed to Holly School (approx. enrollment: 370), the one district’s middle school that graduating fifth grade students attend from both schools, where they are all seated for a District sing-along. The Holly School band, orchestra, and choir all perform Christmas and Hanukkah carols, followed by Shay and Kress students who sing along with their music teachers who accompany them on piano. (No teacher in their right mind forgets to include Hanukkah songs in District 30 due to the large Jewish percentage of the student body. Because of this large percentage, especially in Mrs. Shapiro’s class where approximately 50% students are Jewish or celebrate both holidays, Mrs. Shapiro and I almost always asked what a student celebrates before saying “Happy Hanukkah” or “Merry Christmas.”)
The concert ended with two songs that are sung by Shay, Kress, and the combined Holly orchestra, band, and choir. In the afternoon, Mr. Liederlassen organizes a holiday sing-along held at Shay where the students sing songs specific to Christmas and Hanukkah. To increase the number of songs sung about Hanukkah, Mr. Liederlassen has written a Hanukkah song, “The Hanukkah Hop.” He also includes songs that are not specific to any holiday, such as songs from “The Sound of Music.” During the concert, I got to sit in a chair next to Mrs. Shapiro, and got to see teachers I had met from Shay at an autism conference I spoke at in Rosemont, as well as Mr. Barbone, my former 5th grade teacher who now worked at Holly.
After the sing-along, I returned to Shay, at the same time the students were returning. When I got to Shay, Mrs. Shapiro gave every student a Popsicle and announced it was Free Time for the rest of the day.
During Free Time, I took out my computer and asked the students if they wanted to color in a grid on my computer. The grid was actually a map of downtown Chicago without the street names—something I had drawn for my mother when she needed it. Brittany, Erika, Ellie, and Rosie worked on the grid, coloring as many squares as they wanted to until the day was over.
At 11:20, Mrs. Shapiro got the bell-ringer to ring the bell. After the students were done cleaning up and had gotten their coats and backpacks, Kindergarten was over, the students were dismissed, and we all went off to celebrate our Winter Break. My teaching in Mrs. Shapiro’s had ended. I thanked her for letting me into her classroom, and then went home to write Mrs. Shapiro my thank-you letter, which I gave to her at the end of the school day.
Afterwards, I rested over the holidays before completing my final examinations for the internship, and preparing for my second semester, where I was transferred to another elementary school in a neighboring school district, Brookings Elementary.