Before I had school-age children, I had a lot of strong opinions about how the parents of my students dealt with their school-age children. For example, when a child in my homeroom came up to my desk in the morning and said, "I forgot my folder. Can I call my mom and have her bring it?" I scoffed at them. "Of course not," I told such students. "You forgot, and now you have to deal with the consequences." And in my head I would think, "What kind of over-coddling, helicopter parent would even do that for the kid?"
You know what I did this morning? I dropped my children off at school, only to discover that it was school picture day and we all had forgotten. I raced home, found them each a dress shirt, and...brought them back to school.
I have no idea where my standards have gone.
This is not to say that I was never kind and understanding. I was, on a lot of fronts. But I must say that at the school where I taught/teach, I had somewhere around one-hundred-twenty students total. Also, I teach middle school, not elementary, which I think is a big deal, since perfectly responsible angelic children morph into something other-worldly in seventh and eighth grades. If I let every kid who forgot their folder, or their school-picture outfit, or their anything, use my classroom phone to call home every time they forgot, I'd be working as an operator far more than I'd be teaching good and valuable testing skills--I mean, English skills (just kidding, and that was a shot at the state of affairs of education in general, not my district which is fantastic).
But I still look back and cringe. When I raced back into the building this morning with two button-down shirts (and an undershirt for Joey, who doesn't wear one under his uniform and therefore needed one), well, Noah was just confused. His class was already lined up to go down to have their pictures taken, and as I thrust the striped shirt that brings out his eyes over his Superman t-shirt, he demanded, "What are you doing? This isn't right!" His irritation was evident in his furrowed eyebrows and frowny mouth. "Just do it," I said, buttoning as fast as I could. "It's what all the cool kids are doing."
What was his teacher doing? If his teacher was me five years ago, she would have been frowning with poorly hidden distaste as she expertly kept the other students in a military-straight line and led them in an organized fashion through the halls, so quietly you could hear a pin drop. But Noah's teacher is wonderful, so she smiled, began walking the somewhat squirrelly preschoolers through the hall, while her assistant stepped over and helped me button Noah's sleeves. "Don't worry," she told me kindly. "We have plenty of time. Isn't funny how forgetful we can be?"
After that, I rushed down the hall to Joey's classroom. Their school is small, so their rooms are on the same floor. I love this, because at least once a day they see each other. It makes their day. Joey's teacher greeted me at the door with a smile, then turned into the room. "Joey! Go ahead and change!" He came to the door, hugged, and kissed me in front of all his friends, who weren't even paying attention to us and who I really don't think would tease, because at some time or another their moms have come around and probably hugged and kissed them, too. They are a small, close-knit class who get along well. So cool. There was a moment when the teacher and I joked about how Joey and I are so forgetful all the time, and I was instantly put at ease about what I once would have considered my completely inappropriate presence in the school. In fact, I still do think it was inappropriate, but the nice thing is, it's a school that's about family and understanding, even when it comes to little things like this. My kids didn't have to feel uncomfortable because they forgot something (well, really I forgot, too). They didn't have a teacher who scoffed at them, or judged their crazy mom.
I'm going to admit I'm not thrilled about going back to work in the fall. I've loved being home with my kids and being there for them when they need me. But I can say this. My time home has made it such that when I DO go back, I hope to bring some of the kindness and understanding I've learned through being a parent of school-age children with truly wonderful teachers. Yes, I'll have one-hundred-twenty-some students, and it will be a different building with different rules and expectations, but you know what? Kindness is kindness, and today, it made my day. I certainly will love doing that for one-hundred-twenty-some families.