Years ago, students began giving me pictures of themselves. They would slip them into their graduation announcements, leave them on my desk, or simply hand them to me. I tacked the first few on the bulletin board. The result? More pictures came my way. The board began to fill. Eventually, all the bulletin boards in my classroom were covered with pictures of kids—except for one section behind some bookcases.
• Eric, who read Shane in the 11th grade–the first book he’d ever read cover to cover.
• And Twila, the first person in her family to attend college…oh, how she loved to read.
• Kelly, who rarely spoke in class, but had enormous writing talent. One day when she was absent, I read her story aloud.
“Who wrote that?” asked Brandon. He always spoke his mind.
“She ought to speak up more,” he said.
I agreed. “Someday she will,” I said. She wanted to be a minister.
• Masooda, a refugee from Afghanistan: She spoke no English at all when she first came to my class. We started with pictures she would cut from magazines. By the end of the year, she knew enough English to give a speech to her incredulous classmates about Afghanistan and her escape to America.
I used to joke with my students that when the bulletin boards were full, I’d retire. Since I was much too young for that, I simply moved the bookcase. Then I myself moved—to a new classroom where even more capacious bulletin boards filled one entire wall. I kept adding pictures.
• The Russia Travelers: 27 American kids and 27 Russian ones—all of them participants in the academic exchanges that opened our eyes and forever changed all of our lives.
• Allie, who was my student aide for three years and knew me so well she practically ran my classroom the year I had to take a short leave.
• Another Brandon, this one the boy who took up my challenge and spent one whole night bringing his Turn It In score down from 26% to zero. “Mrs. Powley! How’s it going?” he’d shout out exuberantly every day when he came into class.
• Maggie, sliding into home base in a picture clipped from the newspaper. She loved to hear me read out loud.
A year and a half ago, I switched classrooms for the last time. There is very little bulletin board space in my new room—just yards and yards of whiteboard. So the pictures—which it took two teachers and four kids several hours to untack and place in a gigantic box—are already packed to go home with me when I leave the classroom at the end of this year to become a full-time Instructional Coach.
I’ve nurtured these students. I’ve challenged them; I’ve believed in them and helped them grow. I’ll never forget them, but I’m glad to have the pictures.
Funny how something so little, given and taken so casually—a senior picture, a snapshot from a field trip, a photo that was in the newspaper—can be so weighted with meaning.
I haven’t had trouble culling my files. I’ve been happy to pass my books along to my colleagues. Maps, posters, decorations: I’m glad they have new homes. But the photographs? They’re coming with me.