Monday, May 24, 2010

First Teachers and Words of Thanks

Two years ago, I sat in an elementary school library gathering information about Kindergarten for Josiah. The information given to me would be used two years in a row... first for my youngest boy and then for my daughter. It had been four years since I had enrolled a child in Kindergarten and I was overwhelmed with a fierce feeling of over-protectiveness for my babies.

The other parents and I listened to general kindergarten information about the program available for children at our school and then we headed off to the kindergarten classrooms. Once I had settled into the tiny chairs at the tiny tables, I listened to the teachers speak. One of them moved me to tears.

If you have heard me speak, you may have heard me talk about that night. One of those good women talked at length about how, we as parents, were not learning more information about who would be our child's first teacher. That job is ours. We were their first teacher when we taught them words, read them books, counted Cheerios... Have you thought of it that way? You, my dear friend, are your child's first teacher. Right now. Today. All our school choices are important... but none more important than the one to look into the faces of those we love best and teach them colors, talk about the world around us, number the cups on the table and help them discover the wonder of reading.

I love that work. I sometimes wish I had more energy for it... but I do really, really love it. I love watching them discover something new and beautiful and helpful and amazing. I love watching their mouths learn to form words and the words then string into sentences and sentences to conversations. I love it.

That said, I am so grateful... deeply, humbly grateful... for the teachers who have come alongside our babies and taught them, too. I love the school my children are blessed to attend and cannot believe how hard the teachers work. How selfless they are. How well they enfold my babies into an educational community and motivate them to learn.

The end of the year is hard for me... I so love these wonderful teachers that I hate to say good-bye. So, in our house, we turned it into something else... instead of waving and moving on, I write a little thank you. Wonder what I am thankful for? Tonight, here is what makes me smile...

I am thankful for teachers who:

-feel called to the profession of teaching and live that calling out to the best of their ability. Loving children in response to calling is a beautiful gift that is unlike anything else.

-have a vision for the work that they do and use that vision to motivate children to learn. Making learning fun and purposeful takes endless years of education and turns it into a journey full of amazing discoveries.

-understand that some kids need more than a lesson taught out-loud. Some kids need activity, song, colors, to make the pieces come together. When they are given this, the lessons they learn stick in a permanent place and can be called on for years to come.

-look at each child and see the whole of them... strengths and weaknesses... and try to meet them where they are. Connecting with each child and helping them makes all the difference in the world.

-make things fun and real and silly and good. Because it matters that my child laughs. It matters that they are happy. It matters that they WANT to be there. And when you laugh, my baby laughs. And I smile.

-sometimes teach it twice. Because someone wasn't listening or a bird flew by the window... or because it just didn't make any sense. Your persistence helps to be sure that no one is left behind.

-set the bar higher. And tomorrow, move it higher again. Because I do that, too. I want my kids to know there is something better.... better behavior, higher achievement, improved attitude... and that they can reach for that today. I am so grateful when our teachers do not settle for what might be "okay" or even "normal"... because I love when they see that there might be more.

-squat down, face to face with my babies and throw their arms around them and pull them close and hug them tight and love them. Really love them. I am not worried about my child being touched by their teacher, I am worried about them NOT being touched by their teacher. I know how important that relationship is... and I love to see it right before me.

So, teachers... thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU. Thank you for the hours you work that we never see. Thank you for loving, for responding, for being creative in how you do your work. Thank you for making our school a place my children walk away from, on that last day, in tears. Thank you for loving your students and teaching them well and for willingly becoming an honorary member of our little family. Because you did, you know. You have become a part of our story... a name we use with respect and awe... a part of sweet memories that will make us smile for years to come.

It is true, I was their first teacher. But, it's May and the year is almost done and I am feeling a little nostalgic. I have four sweet children who all go to school and spend their days with amazing people who have loved them well. I will miss them soon... but for tonight, I am just thankful.

Where are those note cards? Might be time to write some of this down.

Blessings on your day.

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