(Day 12: Write about five blessings in your life.)
Wednesday, March 11 was a beautiful day, given that it wasn’t quite spring in Connecticut yet. I remember it clearly. The world was abuzz with covid-19 talks but no one really knew what was coming. Work was more stressful than usual. My anxieties were already ramping up more than usual. And I’d never been more thankful to slip out of the office mid-morning to head across town to my daughter’s elementary school, where I often go on Wednesday mornings to meet her class at the library.
When I arrived that day, though, I found her class preparing to leave the library, having moved their class time up a half hour to accommodate for a whole-school event that I was fortunate enough to attend with them since I was there anyway. All the students—kindergarten through second grade—were being rewarded with a sidewalk chalk party for adhering to the “positive behavior” covenant they all chant daily during morning announcements. So there I was, among a sea of roughly 350 students and roughly 30 teachers and staff, watching kids excitedly scribble drawings and messages in the courtyard. There was laughter and frantic running around and general childhood levity. I’m so thankful for that time and I’m so thankful that the kids had that moment to celebrate. Because none of us knew then that the following day would be their last day of school in the traditional sense.
This pandemic has affected us all in so many ways, on so many levels. But for now, I’m going to stick to describing what it’s like for me, personally. I’m working remotely. Limited hours—down to 16 weekly from what once was 38—but working still. Every day. And also trying to play teacher. And also trying to prepare three meals per day and the eleventy bajillion snacks my girl asks for non-stop. And also trying to maintain my household; laundry and dishes and floors don’t know that I need a break. And with whatever time is left in my day, I’m also trying to preserve my own sanity. Quell my own anxiety. Make sure I’m mentally up for the challenge of yet another day like the last.
I’ve helped my daughter navigate through paper packets and access multiple platforms for school work…Microsoft Teams, Lexia, ST Math, RAZ Kids. As an active member of our school’s PTO, I’ve also tried my best to continue moderating our school’s Facebook group for families by sharing relevant information and answering questions when I can. I’ve taken my girl to the “teachers parade” the faculty organized for the benefit of our kids. I’ve tried so hard to keep on top of every Spirit Day and Theme Week being catapulted our way from every direction. But it’s a lot. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I’m spread too thin. So when the rumblings of Teacher Appreciation Week began several weeks ago in the PTO groups I’m part of on social media, I initially felt a bit jaded by it all. I’m the teacher now. Who’s going to appreciate ME?! But since then, I’ve come to my senses. I’ve realized that even though we’re not physically in school and even though a lot of the hands-on “get your work done” prodding falls to me right now, our teachers absolutely deserve our appreciation. Perhaps moreso now than ever.
Today’s prompt is to write about five blessings in my life. And being that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, I felt it appropriate to pen a few notes about the teachers who I’m most blessed to have in my daughter’s life right now.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical at the start of our girl’s first grade year. Her teacher looked so young and in my mind that equated to inexperienced and ill-equipped to effectively handle our girl. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We met each other briefly at Open House at the start of the year. And I’d made small talk with her on Wednesday mornings when I’m able to join library time. But I didn’t get the opportunity to really talk about our girl with her until parent/teacher conferences in November. When my husband and I left that meeting, I said to him, “She sees our girl.” Mrs. Kibbe began fostering our girl’s leadership abilities from the beginning of the school year by giving her the title Lost Things Manager, a position that entails selecting a helper or two to put away anything that’s out of place at the end of the day; Our girl spoke proudly of that responsibility so often. She’s worked as a team with us on some personal/social struggles our girl was facing and has created opportunities for our girl to get some additional challenges to keep her stretching her mind. Since the start of the school year, she has made herself readily available to all parents and often responded to messages outside of school hours, a sure sign that her students are not just forgotten when the bell rings at 3:20. Since we began “distance learning,” she’s been a tremendous asset to not only her students but us parents, as well. Her understanding of our girl and her needs has truly impressed me so it was no surprise that when I mentioned to our girl (before I knew for sure) that there was a chance she wouldn’t be able to go back to school until the fall, she said, “That would be awful. Then I wouldn’t get to see Mrs. Kibbe anymore.” Not her friends, but Mrs. Kibbe. And my girl is right. The worst part of this quarantine is missing out on the last third of the year in Mrs. Kibbe’s classroom.
When our girl expressed interest in dance lessons at three years old, we didn’t have to look far. At the recommendation of a (practically) family member, we chose Suffield Performing Arts Center in the summer of 2016 after a short visit to check out the studio and to meet Miss Donna and her daughter/co-teacher Lizzie. We liked the recital pictures and the fact that the little girls were dressed like little girls. We liked that competitive dance was an option, not a requirement. We liked that the teenage dancers welcomed our girl in excitedly that day to stretch with them and that our girl joined them with no hesitation or fear. I cried watching her that day. And at her first dance recital in May 2017. And at her first dance competition in winter 2018. And most recently, while watching my girl follow along to her ballet technique class on Zoom from our living room. Miss Donna is a no-nonsense woman who expects discipline and hard work from the girls…but who also knows when it’s time to let loose and let them run wild for a bit. Her choice to start Zoom classes shortly after the Governor’s “stay at home order” took effect shows what I’ve always know; she loves her dancers. Remote classes have allowed the girls to not only continue dancing but also to continue socializing with each other and with her. Miss Donna probably doesn’t realize the enormous impact her decision has made on my girl because I’ve heard classes from the next room and know that my girl chooses not to talk much during these virtual meetings. But when class is over, she’s amped up and talks excitedly about what they did and what the other girls were talking about. Her whole demeanor changes. Twice per week, my girl gets to feel normal for a couple of hours. And for that, I’ll never be able to thank her enough.
From the start of her Kingergarten year, my girl has insisted that PE is her favorite part of school. So when I met Mrs. Annis myself during Open House in fall 2018, I introduced myself and told her how much my girl loves her class. She asked who my student was and when I said my girl’s name, Mrs. Annis’s face lit up. “I love her!” she gushed. Her comments on my girl’s report cards are always complimentary and when I’m at the school, Mrs. Annis has taken several opportunities over the past couple of years to personally tell me what a pleasure it is to have my girl in class. When “distance learning” began, it’s Mrs. Annis’s videos that my girl is most excited to see. When the “Physical Education” channel on Teams is bold, indicating that there’s a new post for her to view there, my girl’s eyes light up. I don’t know what sort of voodoo she’s done but Mrs. Annis has truly helped foster my girl’s love for physical activity, which I hope will continue throughout her lifetime.
When our girl decided she wanted to play soccer, I’ll admit that I cringed a little on the inside. Soccer was perhaps my least favorite sport to watch, mostly because I don’t understand a lick of what goes on on the field. But what our girl wants, our girl gets. We were assigned to Coach Shelley’s U6 “green team” in the recreational soccer league in fall of 2018. She saw something in our girl that we hadn’t seen and began to foster her soccer skills in a way that neither myself nor my husband were equipped to do. She pushed her and mentored her and taught her the art of playing defense. And after two seasons, Coach Shelley recommended we look into the Academy program, a sort of stepping stone between the recreational and competitive leagues in our town. We took that leap in fall 2019, and our 6-year old was suddenly playing on a U9 team on a bigger field and with more rules in play, including assigned positions. Gone were the days of a pack of tykes swarming after the ball. Without Shelley’s guidance, I never would’ve looked beyond recreational soccer and our girl wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow on the field as much as she has since joining Academy. Though spring season is canceled due to covid-19, I’m looking forward to seeing what Fall 2020 brings for her soccer skills.
My husband and I are both full-time workers so from the time our girl was 6 weeks old, she went to a home daycare that we absolutely loved. And when our provider announced in 2016 that she would be retiring that spring, we were gutted. Thus began the hunt for a preschool for our then 4-year old, which led us to The World of Imaginations. Miss Megan was our girl’s first real teacher. And though our girl entered preschool already knowing much of what would be covered on the academic end of things, her time with Miss Megan introduced her to the concept of “circle time” and schedules and classroom responsibilities and etiquette. It was around this time that our girl started playing school at home and participating in themed days based on what they were learning about in class. Preschool graduation day was a rough one for me but thankfully our girl was able to stay on as a “school-ager” at the same daycare. And though she’s no longer a preschooler there (known as “Miss Megan’s friends), our girl still gets to see Miss Megan daily and loves the team of teachers who care for the school-agers, too. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw our girl from The World of Imaginations because of covid-19, a decision that came after a lot of emotional struggle. I look forward to the day I can re-enroll her when the worst of this pandemic is behind us.