(They're) All My Children.

I see that child - the small one, the clumsy one, the big one, the shy one, sitting in the corner of my classroom longing for a friend.  I know him. He's the child who smiles and laughs at jokes that are shared at his own expense, the child who is seeking attention, friendship, acceptance and love. 
These are the children that I take particular care with each year; the ones I try to boost with an offhand positive comment meant for others to hear. They’re the ones I watch carefully from the corner of my eye, and the ones I steer gently toward a child or group that I know will accept them as one of their own.

Each year I search for those souls in my room- they’re not hard to find.  I wrap them as best I can in my protective arms, all the while hoping that the coming years in school will treat them well – but knowing in my heart that they may not. I try to show the rest of the class by example what is important - his character, her humor, his honesty, her intelligence and his talent.

That child who sits in my room that is too big for his age; the one who is too shy, too small, too loud or too clumsy?  The one who won’t speak, or talks too much or who is much too silly?  I know him.  I know him intimately.

He’s my child.

My child is the boy who will climb on the roof, fly down the hill on his bike, climb WAY too far up the tree, but is afraid to participate in class.   My child is the boy who collects insects in the summer, identifies their tracks, does science experiments in his room, but hates to read.  My child is the boy who didn’t look where he was going and stumbled over the recycling bin and fell flat on his face on the first day of school. He's the boy who fell down the stairs during the first fire drill of the year.
My child is the one who sleeps with the bathroom light on because he is a little afraid of the dark.  My child is the boy whose smile and sense of humor brighten our lives, but who just can’t keep his mouth shut at school!  He's the one who gets caught by the teacher but won’t tattle on the other children who have been participating in whatever mischief has drawn her attention.

As teachers, we know our mission; to ensure each child in our care makes significant academic progress during the school year.  However, we all know our most important charge of all.
To hold the hand of the child who doesn’t quite fit in, and gently guide him along the way.  And when he sits up a little straighter, when he laughs a bit louder, and smiles more often- we know.  We KNOW in our hearts that what we’ve done in that regard is even more important than our original mission. 

We have helped that particular soul be brave enough to fly.   


You've entrusted your most precious cargo with us...now please trust that we'll always do what's best.

Sniff.  Sniff. Can you smell it? You know what I mean. That smell is here; the smell of new pencils, new books, new crayons and markers, the smell of new shoes, new clothes, and a new backpack and you know what that means.  School is in the air!   Perhaps the biggest sign that school is right around the corner is the buzz that is flying around the pool, in the supermarket and at your local fall sporting practices.  Who will get the Best Teacher of All?  Who will be the lucky kids to get in the Best Teacher of All’s class?

Remember on Mary Poppins, when Jane and Michael wrote a letter and asked for the perfect nanny?  The father was stunned when Mary Poppins handed him the list that he had thrown into the fire.   It went something like this:

(Start humming…) “If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition; rosy cheeks, no warts; play games, all sorts.  You must be kind, you must be witty, very sweet and very pretty; take us on outings, give us treats, sing songs, bring sweets.”    

That’s what keeps going through my mind at this time of year. That super duper wish list.   The wish list each parent and child has.  Here’s what I think the wish list is for the perfect teacher.  Wanted:  teacher; must be sweet, even-tempered, hip, funny, pretty, smart, young, experienced and energetic.  Must never yell, get mad, throw things or lose her temper.  Must be very patient, wear stylish clothes, have a lovely laugh and smell like fresh baked cookies.  

So, basically, that would count me out.  (And, perhaps, everyone I know.)
While we teachers may not all be young or hip or very tall, there are some things we have in common.   We are committed to our jobs and to your kids.  These are some of the things we can promise you.    We will get to know your child inside and out; we will learn about his pets, his siblings, his likes and dislikes and will always notice when he gets a hair cut.  We will push him to be independent, self-sufficient, confident and responsible.   We will help guide him when things don’t go his way and will laugh with him (and applaud) when they do. We will push him until he reaches the potential that we know he has, and we will be there when he falls, to pick him back up, dust him off and start him back up that hill.  That’s our job, and that’s what we love to do. 

Contrary to what my kindergarteners recommended to our student intern, we will not be teaching kickboxing, having cinema time every day; they cannot ride mechanical bulls in class, skateboard off the roof (with kneepads, of course) and we will not buy them happy meals for lunch once a week. (I gotta give them credit for trying, however.)

As a mom, I’ve learned that often the teachers who work with my child every day know more about what is a good match for him than I do.  I have learned that it is important for me to keep my mouth shut on some occasions and it is equally important to voice my concerns at others.  I have learned that a teacher that was not the best match for Mrs. Jones’ son (that darned Mrs. Jones—always so hard to keep up with), was the perfect teacher for my son.

Yeah, we teachers don’t all look alike.  Some of us are tall, short, skinny, chunky, old, young, and black and white.  However, we all love kids and want what is best for these young souls.  So please; trust us, respect us and join us in making this the Best Year Ever for your child.   One more thing - beware the buzz at the pool.  Sometimes that bee will come right back and sting ya.


The toughest gig in town. (aka Parent be thy name.)

We all, those of us with children, always hope to be the best parent there is. At least I think MOST of us do.

But, it’s a tough gig, this parenting thing.  In fact it’s the toughest job in the world if you are truly honest with yourself. 

I’ve been thinking long and hard about how parents try so very hard to keep their children on the straight and narrow.  We try to teach them to have integrity, to have good morals, to be kind to others, to love themselves and all the other important things that make one a good person and a good citizen. 

But hell, that’s exhausting.  In fact, I think that if we are all truly honest here, we will admit that when the kids are between the ages of 0 -21- we are just trying to keep THEM alive all the while trying not lose our ever-loving minds.

We spend our days rushing them to school, to events, to this and that ALWAYS feeling rushed and late. They forget to tell us we have to hem pants for the next night that we MIGHT have to go buy at a shop that MIGHT be closed at 11:00 p.m.  They forget to tell us that they need snacks for a multi-cultural day at their school the next day that will give them “extra credit and I think I really need it to pass the class so please, please, please”.  Oh, and perhaps they forget to tell us they were FAILING A CLASS. They forget their instruments, homework assignments, permission slips and appointments-but we do our very best to always right the ship.

We spend twenty some years running an invisible, frantic marathon- with no make-up, horrible nails, no real sleep, an exhausted bank account and stretch pants with holes in them against a foe we can’t even see.  How can we POSSIBLY fit in the time to teach them the valuable and important lessons to help them be the people we want them to be?


Today I had an epiphany.

While I was busy answering every phone call, hemming every pair of pants I bought at the last minute, driving across the world and back to sporting events, emptying my change jar and finding money where there wasn’t any, running them to and fro and reminding them each and every single day how much I love them – I might have inadvertently taught them an important thing or two.

I am preparing to help Sassy move to Tampa with her fella.  She is leaving Erie, Pa – and 3 jobs that she’s been working.  Three. She has a college degree in accounting from a highly accredited university- and is STILL working 3 jobs.  She calls me every single day, and even though we still may not always see eye-to-eye she tells me she loves me every day.  (As do the Bitchy and The Golden Boy.)

The epiphany? I think it’s this - it’s not the words that come out of your mouth every single day that impact your children- but your actions.  Do you spread kindness?  Are your actions pure?  Are your actions just?  Do they serve others instead of yourself? I can’t be sure if mine always did but I have always strived for that. I have always just wanted to do the right thing.

Now, I thank the Powers That Be every single day that I didn’t screw the kids up TOO much, and that they are (so far) the amazing souls I always hoped they would be. They all work VERY hard, call their mom every day,  aren't in jail(so far), don't do drugs and are kind and decent human beings. 

Parenthood.  It’s the TOUGHEST gig in town.   But it’s the one that will bring you the greatest, most beautiful joy you never ever knew existed.