Monday, May 14, 2012
That One Day in the Car Pool LIne
Mrs. Jackson had been running all day. She'd been late to work, in meetings all day, no time for lunch and now she was late for a doctor's appointment. She inched her way along the car pool pickup line moving half a car length for each minute that ticked by. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, tapped her foot, muttered curse words. When she finally reached Charlesa and Charles, she was a bursting volcano who unleased her full fury on the 2 teachers working the car pool lane that day. The two tired teachers were speechless.
Follow me to time six weeks earlier. It's October and my 4th grade classroom is humming. We are settled into routines, friendships made, expectations clear. Life is good. And then Charlesa arrives. She is beautiful, tall, smart and has the art of head bobbing, back talking attitude perfected.
Day One, Charlesa calls another child names. Day One, I call Mrs. Jackson and say how nice Charlesa's handwriting is. I say, in our classroom, we speak respectfully to one another.
Day Four, Charlesa "accidently" trips another student. Day Four, I call Mrs. Jackson to say Charlesa is a great reader. I say, in our classroom, we are respectful with our hands and feet.
Day Ten, Charlesa tears a student's art project. Day Ten, I call Mrs. Jackson to say how Charlesa does great arriving to class on time. I say, in our classroom, we are respectful of other's things.
And so it goes, day after day for the first six weeks of her arrival. A battle of the wills. Her need to be noticed. My need for respectful behavior. My relationship with both mother and daughter beginning to grow.
And then the day of the Mt. Vesuvius car pool pickup. The 2 tired teachers told me the tale. I call Mrs. Jackson. "Tell me what happened," I begin. I listen. She vents. My turn.
"I want you to know Mrs. Jackson, those 2 teachers you tore apart are good friends of mine. The safety of children at the end of the day is a big responsibility that they take very seriously. I'm sorry you were running late. Your words were very hurtful. The worst part is that as you spewed hateful words on them you were being watched by four little eyes. Four little eyes who look up to you and model themselves after you. Is this what you want them to learn?" Silence. I feel a shift. We say our goodbyes.
The next morning before school starts, Mrs. Jackson shows up in my classroom with four little eyes alongside and 2 notes written in her handwriting apologizing to the 2 teachers. She explained she was taking them with her to apologize in person to each teacher. One victory for us all.
Teachers do so much more than teach abc's and 123's. Teachers guide young souls to grapple with academics but also tough character lessons as they go. A skilled teacher touches a child's life not for a month or year but for a lifetime. On this week of Teacher Appreciation, take a moment to write in your own handwriting a few words of sincere appreciation for what a teacher has done for you. I suspect, they, like me and the file folder of notes I have tucked away, will treasure it forever.
My Toy Garden is happy to help you celebrate the special teachers in your life with perfect classroom gifts or My Toy Garden gift certificates to let them shop on their own.