the one about how i know

In just about one year, I will be registering my oldest nugget for Kindergarten. I can hardly believe that I am she is almost old enough for the start of her formal education career.

For five days a week and roughly 8 hours a day, she will be outside of my care and in the hands of people I have yet to meet. She will walk hallways and use the bathroom and get her lunch tray and turn in homework and play on the playground...and I won't be there.

This thought is both liberating and horrifying.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the education system and the teaching profession...after all, it was a huge part of my life for six years (and the prior four years I spent earning my degree), and it is still a part of my regular thoughts and conversation today. I am all too aware of the stress and pressure of the teaching profession and what that stress and pressure does to students.

I became inspired to write a letter to my daughter's future teacher, and, maybe someday, I will find the guts to actually deliver it.

'Til then...

Dear Teacher,

Let me first start off by saying I know. I know that even opening a parent letter can bring on an anxiety attack worthy of a glass (or two) of wine by 9 a.m. I am here to say that this is not one of those letters. Breathe (and put the wine away-- it's frowned upon).

I know. I know that a new school year is one of the most exciting experiences in life for a teacher. A new start. A new set of names. A new theme for your room maybe or a new discipline system. A new textbook or a new method you learned at an amazing conference. A new chance to be a difference-maker, a life-changer, a child-impactor.

I am so excited for your excitement because my daughter is now one of "your kids." You will see her for more waking hours of the day than I will. Inevitably, she will fall down at recess, and I can't be the one to help her get a bandaid. She will look to you for that. Someone may hurt her feelings, and she will need you to talk her through it until she comes home to me. She may get an awesome grade on her spelling test, and it will be you she wants to high-five first. She may will do something that will land her in trouble, and she will depend on your fairness and tough love so she can learn from her mistake.

I know. I know you might think I am asking you to step outside the boundaries of your profession because someone in politics wearing an expensive suit and tie has tried to fit your job description inside a neatly packaged box... a list of standards and objectives and checkboxes and dotted lines. I know you might think you don't have time to "mother" my child because that is my job and your job is to teach and assess and you have 25 other kids and no assistant and a stack of papers to grade that isn't getting any shorter and you just found out you have to do a tornado drill during your reading lesson. I know because I know.

But I am asking you to be brave. Be bold. Take your job description out of the neatly packaged box and throw it back into that Mary Poppins bag it came in, because I know you know that there's more to every child than a test score, an IQ number, a color code. I know you know that these children have feelings and fears and bad days and melt downs and sometimes they just need a hug and not a No. 2 pencil. I know you know that even the most difficult child is someone else's baby.

I know. I know that the stakes are high and the pressure is real. I know that my child doesn't do well on the big test, your career depends on it. And that sucks, I know.

But I also know when I just tell her about snow, she could care less. When she runs outside and catches it on her tongue and feels the cold and looks at the sky and sees the clouds and experiences the snow, that's when she asks questions. When she asks questions, I answer them (or help her find the answers), and she learns.

I know. I know because I have been in your shoes. I fought the good fight and still believe that there's nothing else I would have rather been than a teacher. I did the early mornings and late nights and bags of papers to grade on weekends and vacations and state tests and parent phone calls.

And I wish more than anything that I would have had a parent tell me how not to do my job. That while learning is important and there's a place for assessments and reports and grades, all the things that aren't "your job" can make such an impact on a child.

Kiss their boo-boos. Tell funny stories. Let your science lesson get side tracked because that one kid in the back asked why the sky is blue. Help them with their little conflicts and celebrate their little victories. Let them play. Let them cry. Let them learn by doing and let them dance in the snow.

I support you. I respect you. I will help you however I can. You need to hear that.

I know.

Sincerely,
Noelle's Mama

3 comments

  1. Once again, you hit home! One of the most challenging aspects of parenting for me is "letting someone else". Teachers and mommas alike will love this letter. A good momma (or teacher) would never let a boo-boo go un-kissed!

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  2. ....and the tears are a flowin'

    Why do you keep doing this to me? ;'/ I love this, I love the letter.

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  3. I know I don't know what it is to be a teacher in the classroom, but with B starting kindergarten this year, I want to share this letter with his teacher. I am not ready for him to be on a big boy...

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