It’s getting closer and closer. The back-to-school ads have started appearing. The school supply lists have exploded in the front of Walmart. The backpacks have gone on sale. Your friends are squeezing in one last quick trip to the beach and your teacher friends are starting to go and work in their rooms.
While the actual summertime season doesn’t come to a close until mid-September, in the South, summer activities are coming to an end.
For parents of kindergarten children, the end of summertime signals the end of something much deeper and more significant. While kindergarteners are often the “babies” of the school, this first year marks the end of a child’s “babyhood” at home. And for many children, school begins even earlier than kindergarten. Most schools are welcoming three and four-year-olds into new preschool programs in public schools these days. Even though this time is very exciting to parents and children alike, it brings out feelings in parents that were hiding under the surface all along. Believe me, I’ve been there–twice. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of memories, misgivings, and emotions that washed over me as I watched my little boys walk away from me and into the room that would be their home away from home for the next ten months.
Nothing–absolutely nothing–has changed my teaching more than becoming a parent did. Parents, I have been in your place twice. I have let go of my little boy’s hand and put it into the hands of another woman, trusting that she will love him the way I want her to. I have said a private goodbye to their preschool years, knowing that in some ways their time of “littleness” was going to be over forever. I have come to the realization that in the matter of a few steps, my children have stepped away from a world where Mommy knows best into a world where someone else was going to know best sometimes. I have swallowed tears of wistfulness, wished for just another few weeks of “the way it was”, and had to physically make myself turn away from my boys as they cheerfully (or stoically, for one of them) waved good-bye to me.
I have been in your place, parents. Fortunately, my children have been blessed with absolutely wonderful teachers. Not only have my boys learned from these ladies; but I have learned too. I have learned things that have changed the way I teach and the way I think about teaching. I’ve learned things that change the way I think about the parents of my students.
There are some things I want you to know, parents.
When you cry, I cry. This may not be true for every teacher, but on that first day of school when you are dropping them off at the door and you start to tear up, I do too. Because I get it. I know how you feel. I’ve just come from dropping off my kids, too! 🙂 In the middle of the year, when you come to me in tears because your home life is falling apart and the child that makes us have common ground is suffering for it, I cry too. Maybe not in front of you, but when I go home and pray for you, I shed tears for you all. When you leave a parent conference in tears of triumph because that child we thought wouldn’t make it to the next grade is progressing, know that I have cried tears of joy as well. And at the end of the year, when you want to say things that just won’t come out because you don’t know if you’re sad or happy, so you just cry…yeah, I do too. A lot. Sometimes embarrassingly so. My fellow teachers and I get together once the year is over and discuss which of us cried the most. We know how you feel, parents, and we feel it too, even when there are no words.
I’m going to be in your corner. I’m not here to work against you. I am for you. It’s not a cliché to me when I tell you that I want us to be partners in your child’s education. If I didn’t mean it, I wouldn’t say it. I want to work with you. Together, we will make your child’s year at school a wonderful success. If there is a behavior problem, I will tell you so that we can figure out together what we will do to help the child. If there is an academic problem, I will tell you early on so that we can figure out together what we will do to help the child. I’m in your corner, parents. I am for you.
Unless you’re not in their corner. The only thing that will pull me from your corner is if you are not in your child’s corner. If that is the case, I will always choose your child. Always.
I will take care of your child. I promise. It is not a promise I take lightly. I’ve always done my best to take care of my school children’s physical and academic needs. But the one biggest change that came from having children of my own was that I felt very convicted about taking care of my school children’s emotional and social needs. Just covering “the basics” is not enough. If your child comes to me and tells me she can’t find anyone to play with, I will find someone for her to play with. I will also work with her on how to make friends on the playground (a hard task for some children). If your child tells me that some big kids were bullying him on the bus, I will get on that bus and go all “teacher-ghetto” on some big kids if I need to (my husband will be so embarrassed that I said that:))! If your child can’t get her milk open, I will open it for her. I will work with your boy on how to get that chip bag open by himself, because that is my job. I will take care of your child.
I will make mistakes. I am very human. I am very far away from perfect. I will accidently send your child’s folder home with someone else. I may accidently lose an attendance note or forget to respond to your phone call. Remind me again to call you. I will make mistakes, but when I do I will do my best to fix them instead of making excuses for them. All I ask is that you are patient with me! 🙂
I will not replace you. No matter how many times your child comes home starting sentences with, “Mrs. Givens said…”, know that they tell me just as much about you. I get called Mama, Nana, and even Daddy on occasion by mistake. 🙂 I know what you make for supper, I know your favorite colors, I know your approximate ages (because sometimes kids think I’m 12 or 89), and I know what songs you listen to on the radio. Know why? Because kids talk out loud about what they’re thinking about. And guess what they’re thinking about? You. Because you are the most important person in their lives. You are the parent and the champion, and I will never replace you. By the way, I won’t tell anyone the embarrassing stuff they pass on. And they do pass it on!
There are many other things I could tell you, but these are the most important to me. Meet the Teacher Night will come, and I will be nervous. I will want you and your kids to like me just as much as you want me to like you! The night is so overwhelming with talk about academics, money, schedules, procedures, and bus routes. There’s no time for me and my fellow teachers to tell you what’s really in our hearts, what made us become a teacher in the first place. So this year, I will just have to show you. It’s going to be a good one.
Your Little One’s Teacher