I pace back and forth “working” in the dining room. The only room in my house with a clear view of the mailbox. Today is the day. Teacher Assignment Day.
The phone rings. A reminder that someone else’s mail has already arrived. My boys, for whom the paper in the envelope holds the names of their teachers for this year, are nowhere to be found. They are on their annual summer getaway with their grandparents. They are not losing any sleep or rearranging their day, or even giving a second thought to who their teacher is this year.
Next week, they will be home and surrounded by friends who will ask the obligatory “Who do you have?” They’ll be happy or a little sad as they piece together their new school family. But that’s it, just another day, just another year.
So why do I care so much?
I answer the phone. “Not yet. Call you as soon as I get it.” It is my almost first grader’s best friend’s mother.
I come from a family of teachers. Both of my sisters are teachers. My parents were teachers. My grandparents were teachers. Growing up I spent weekends and vacations and pretty much every waking minute with teachers.
I have ultimate respect for the profession: for the tireless, non-stop energy and stamina it takes to shape 20 plus little minds each year. I have so much respect for the profession that I didn’t go into it. I know it’s a calling and I didn’t have it.
I also know that teachers come in all shapes, sizes and stages of life. Some are tall, some are short, some are cheery, some rarely crack a smile. They have good years and bad years. They fall in love, give birth, care for dying parents, get divorced, mourn loved ones and get sick. They are energized by the newest reading techniques and overwhelmed by endless testing. They have, do and feel it all. Because — they are human.
As a daughter and sister, I know that good teachers hold their own through it all. But as a parent, I fight the urge to crave the perfect teacher. After all, I only have two kids with one childhood. I want the best education’s got. I want the trifecta: teachers who love their jobs, get my kids and teach them things too.
My father reminded me last summer, right around this time, that “It’s good for kids to experience all kinds of personalities, to get them ready for the world.” I nodded in obedient agreement and then thought, “Ready for the world? Just let it be a good year.”
But I do want them to be ready for the world, to experience the smile of the new teacher excited by the warm glow of learning. And the mastery of the “seen it all, done it all” type who knows how to crack the “I can’t do it” code. But most of all, I want the only other person who spends seven hours a day with them to look into their eyes and see potential.
After the paper with their teacher assignment arrives, I will try to smile and be happy with whatever name it reveals. I will try not to launch through my mental database and into discovery mode seeking out parents who’ve gone this way before. I will try not to care too deeply about the sober ratings of pool parents. Or, passing parents at the grocery store who provide a vague, “You’ll like her.”
I wonder if the teachers are lighting up the phone lines on this day? “Oh no! Not her.” Or, “Fantastic! I was hoping I’d get a group of energetic boys this year.” More likely they’re swapping not so cryptic reviews of the parents, because I’d imagine, some (throat clear) are easier than others.
I hope that I am one of the good parents, the ones with whom the teachers want to work.
I also hope that someday I will care a little less and trust a little more.
And I hope my son gets Mrs. … wait … hold that thought. Moment of truth, the mailman is finally here!
This piece ran in the Hartford Courant, August 27, 2011.