Five years ago, I wrote a letter to my oldest son’s Kindergarten teacher, whomever it would be. He is now in fifth grade and what a long, strange trip it has been. He has had some amazing educators who have challenged him to work through his weaknesses, praised his strengths, and given him opportunities to feel success. And I am grateful.
Loving school can be a fragile thing, and it’s important that students get those amazing teachers early on and for a few years in a row so they can build up that love and those feelings of success. They will need those feelings later on to help buoy them through the inevitable years in which they may not love the authority figure in the room.
But here comes the other son, my youngest, the Lost Boy, the digger, the one who’s always dirty, always looking in every drawer and climbing up every shelf, who always has a sword in his hand and the volume of his voice turned up to 11.
So it’s time to update my letter.
I recall running my finger down the posted list of student names looking for my son’s, and when I saw it, I learned your name -- his first teacher.
It’s amazing how so many hopes and dreams become immediately attached to a name. As a teacher, I must remember what this feels like so that I can respect what my own families go through when they too see my name on their students’ schedules.
And in no time, you’re facing that first day of school. All knowledge of educational policy goes out the window when you’re watching one of your kids Velcro his shoes at the front door. All care of educational headlines disappear when you’re looking at one of your little guys walk away with his BB8 backpack and Ninjago lunchbox to disappear into your room. All interest in Common Core vs. State Standards drains away at that first bell, signaling for parents to return in six hours. Sure, I know that the teachers face challenges, funding issues, and problems beyond their control, but for each child and family, it’s all about this teacher -- his or her name -- and my letter of appeal. Here it is:
May you see him for who he is. He can have a conversation full of deep thoughts and questions; unfortunately, he can’t seem to stop himself from having that conversation with you or his friends, even during quieter times.
May you forgive him his trespasses. He plays to the audience that likes boogers and farts. He can go over to the Dark Side sometimes, but I hope that you can help make the Side of the Force just as attractive.
May he be safe in your care, even if you’re secretly relieved when he’s out sick.
May you find ways to allow us to help you. A real terror for a parent is that with the onset of school, all knowledge of your kid’s day stops. I wish I could be a fly on the wall witnessing all of his successes. I also wish to know about his key failures so that we can follow through with consequences at home. We’ve got your back.
May you let him name a chicken and clean out the coop. May you let him be line leader and bring up the rear. May you keep him safe, even if he doesn’t yet believe it is his job to do so, as well. May you make sure that if he pees on the seat, it is his job to clean it up, not the custodian’s job or yours.
May he not totally strip down when using the john, and if he does, please know that we’re working on that at home, too.
May you realize that while he talks a lot about TV, he doesn’t watch it nearly as much as he talks about it.
May you catch when other kids are mean to him so that he may know he has an ally in you, and may you also catch him when he is mean to others so that he knows even his allies won’t stand for it.
May you not take away his recess to punish him for being squirmy on the carpet squares or when standing in line. However, if he’s not cleaning up after lunch, you have our blessings to withhold anything fun until he has taken care of his own trash.
May you enjoy his laughter, questions, thinking, dreams, expressions, gestures, monologues, un-rhythmic dancing (I point a finger at my husband for that one), impersonations, connections, and curiosity as much as we do.
May your smile light up his morning, as I hope his does yours.
May each time his hand goes up, you know it will be a contribution that will help propel the conversation. I make no promises, but I pray that will be the case.
May you catch when he does something kind, and praise him as if it were a gold medal. For us, kindness far outweighs penmanship.
May you start each day giving him a fresh start so that he might have the chance to win your respect each day he’s in your care. That’s a toughie, I know, for any teacher, but if the kid feels like you do that, it will go a long way.
May you be the first of a long line of teachers that he loves and remembers for years to come. May you give him the start of a beautiful relationship with school and with education, one that sees him through frustrations with authority figures that one day he will just have to deal with. For now, however, he’s building up the memories of those who love him and care for him, and you are the first in that foundation.
May we be able to work together to help this young man in his relationships with people, with learning, and with himself.
May you have a wonderful year with our son. He is our joy, and we trust you with him.