This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’m thinking back to my own experiences as a teacher. When I worked at a Catholic school, this was the week that the mothers brought in food for the teachers to have a special lunch. The food was delicious, and it was a special break from routine. Now that I’m a mom who should be showing appreciation for my kids’ teachers, I realize how much work they put in, how hard it is to do something extra like that on top of a busy schedule. In public school, I think the administration gave us something. Maybe turkey and gravy? I can’t remember. In a lot of public schools, administrators don’t think they need to appreciate teachers. They think everybody should just be appreciating them.
In community college, you get nothing. Nada. Because the semester is over by now. (That’s good enough!) Though I did get a very interesting “cup cover” for doing a professional development seminar once. It looked like a nipple.
I don’t remember my own kindergarten experience much or at all, only that the teacher read us stories in a dress with her legs spread apart, and we could see her underwear. (“Don’t look!” was her solution when we told her of the problem).
But I have learned a lot from Mr. B’s kindergarten teacher this year. Not only is she a wonderful person, kind and nurturing and intelligent, with a strong sense of responsibility, but she also teaches lessons that can really help adults. In fact, I think adults should start to hire her for workshops.
Lesson #1: Accept mistakes and move on.
Do you know how hard this to do? For me? But I’m working on it. (It’s apparently very hard for Mr. B, too, because he did come from my loins.) But there’s real wisdom here. You can’t go back and change a mistake, so just accept that you’re not perfect and proceed. Toward your next mistake. For life is absurd. Ha!
Lesson #2: There are some things that are in our control, and other things that are out of our control. Learn the difference.
I want to control everything. I particularly want to control time. Why won’t it bend to my will? If I’m running 5 minutes behind (or more typically, 20), I want the clocks to set themselves back when I arrive at my destination. And why can’t this happen? What kind of yoga-mind acrobatics do I need to learn to time travel?
This is one of the things I can’t control. (Bullocks.) I also can’t control the weather just by hoping for it, and I can’t control whether I sell my novel this fall, when I hope to be done with it. The things I can control are, of course, the weather and selling my novel in the fall, as long as I worry hard enough about it.
I can control whether I dress appropriately for the weather and whether I actually finish the novel.
Jeez. The things I can control are really meek by comparison.
Lesson #3: When there’s a conflict, talk to the person about it, not somebody else.
Boy oh boy, do adults need to get the hang of this. And teenagers. Teenagers might be the worst, but inside every adult, there’s a teenager. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve met adults who still behave as though they are in high school, when really they need to go back to kindergarten and learn this lesson.
Lesson #4: When something’s on your mind, put it on paper.
This isn’t a lesson written on the blackboard, per se, but in Mr. B’s writing workshop, he draws things that happened to him as a way to tell a story and practice communication skills. Then he writes it out the best he can. We’ve used this at home recently.
Bothered by a girl that was mean to you at school? Draw a picture of her, complete with eyes made of daggers.
Or annoyed that your sister is like some evil/cherubic faerie who keeps stealing all your toys? Draw the two sides of her.
(This is way cheaper than therapy, I promise.)
Even dads join in the fun. (Moms prefer to write on their blogs.)
I think he is working through the pressures and loneliness of early prepubescence.
Lesson #5: Take a deep breath.
Mr. B’s teacher tells them in the morning and at the end of the day to take deep breaths. This is simple, but monumental. Do you know how many people forget to breathe, or sort of don’t know how? It’s all in-out, in-out through the mouth. Deep breaths create openness in your mind and in our heart and settle your whole body down. They need to teach this stuff in college. (Coping with Life 101.) And then to employees at big soulless corporations, or even employees at small nonprofits, and to retail workers, who get shit on a lot, and to moms and dads. Breathe in the stress life gives you, breathe out so life can take it away.
I’m sure there are more lessons, but these five basic ones can kind of get you through anything.
As Mr. B nears the end of his kindergarten year, I realize once again that having kids forces you to constantly be in transition, always learning or re-learning something new. Parents (and teachers) are always beginners, no matter how old their kids are. It’s constant work, and tiring, too. But it’s wonderful work, soulful work. I’m grateful that I get a chance to continually grow and see through my children’s eyes. And I’m glad they have so many talented, kind and beautiful people around them to usher them on their way.