Dear Class {2015},

**I can NOT believe it is already time to pen another one of these.  Wasn't it just yesterday that I was writing my first Dear Class entry for last year's crew??  Goodness, time flies when you are having fun!**

This year has been the same as the each of my 9 years in first grade in many ways.  First day jitters, hilarious stories to tell, teaching stresses, and a piece of my heart stolen by each of you...

Yet, this year has been different and challenging too.

This year has been filled with pressures of data.  You may not have noticed.  Then, probably did.  After all, first graders are quite perceptive.

I know you noticed...because many of you wrote awards for yourself at the end of the year based on your data growth on our MAP tests or in guided reading.

I know you noticed...because there were a few tears from 1 or 2 of you when you didn't meet your growth goal.

And I hate that you noticed...because that means that, at times, I fell into the trap of pressuring you too much...even though I tried my very hardest not to.  Even though I knew better.

So here's my "I'm sorry."  My sincerest apologies.  Because despite my every effort to fight off the pressures of data scores...that was our reality this year.  And it's a shame.

Because you are more than a piece of data, sweet first graders.

Listen to me, child.  Listen to your teacher.

Data does not define you.

Data does not give me or anyone else the whole picture of you.

Despite the many pressures to "get better scores" from you and "reach your growth goals," I know that, even if you don't meet the magic score, you are still an amazing class of firsties.

Don't you forget that, sweet class of 2015.  My data for the year has been turned in for each of you.  Many of you soared.  Your data speaks to that.  Lots of you soared...And your data does not speak to that.

But for each of you, your data gives information to me and others who analyze it about you as a first grader.  It tells them your grade, your reading level, whether you "grew" enough in math or literacy this year based on norm referenced data...

But there are a lot of missing pieces to that data.

Your data doesn't tell them how kindhearted you are.  So many of you befriended Michael and went above and beyond to help him feel comfortable in our classroom and on the playground.  And he learned from you because of that.  The love and "I miss you"s sent to Ryder when we saw him at the stick horse rodeo were unforgettable.  He had moved to a new school just 4 months earlier and his face beamed with pride when he heard you screaming his name!  He stood taller and prouder because of you, sweet first graders.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them what great thinkers you are.  From Zander and Jackson inventing ways to solve math problems with negative numbers to Nila's interpretation of the Wizard of Oz that knocked my socks off.  And Sydney's determination to solve each math problem in at least 3 different ways.  And Carlos' lightbulbs that went off on his sweet little face each time he remembered something he learned.  And Ethan's quiet little, "Oh, I think I've got something" remarks during our class discussions.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them how concerned you were for each other.  You each welcomed new students into our class with open arms.  Zoe volunteered to show each of our new students where to go.  Andrea gently woke Nayeli up when she fell asleep at her desk.  Sydney worried about kids who had moved away from our classroom and how they were doing in their new room.  Konnor took it upon himself to teach Michael how to do things he didn't understand.  And when Kelly returned from missing several days of school, she was swarmed with classmates asking where she was, if she was okay, and telling her how much she was missed.  Each of you felt at home in our classroom, as if you were a family...and you were able to learn and grow more because of that.  And that's because of you, class of 2015.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them how safe you made our classroom feel.  From Carlos breaking out his {{amazing}} secret dance skills the last few months of school, to Samantha and Mayra feeling excited about volunteering to share their ideas because of your patience... You each felt safe and confident and were given the wait time you each needed to blossom.  And blossom you did, my sweet first graders.  No data can tell that story.

Your data doesn't tell them how much immeasurable growth you actually did make this year.  One of you went from 2 word sentences to full academic conversations in English at the end of the year.  You learned that constructive criticism is okay and makes us better.  Some learned that there is a difference between addition and subtraction and were able to work each problem type independently by the end of the year.  Some of you learned that whining just makes hard work harder--and not fun!  One of you learned that bullying isn't a good way to get attention from friends.  And each of those life lessons made you better people and better students.  Were it not for those important teaching moments, most of you would not have had the great "data" you had at the end of the year.  No data can tell that whole story.

No, dear class of 2015, you can not be summed up in a number, a piece of data, or a grade.  Because at the end of the day, you are human.  A six or seven year old human.  Not a trackable piece of merchandise on a shelf at Wal-Mart, but a God-designed, God-breathed, God-created human.  No number can encompass the magnitude of that.

And while I will soon forget your exact MAP test scores in the months to come, and I will not be able to recall what reading level you were on in December or even each grade I gave you on your report card...I will remember YOU.  Because each of you is unforgettable.  You each hold a special "forever" place in my heart.

With love from your "forever" first grade teacher,

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