Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What the hell am I gonna do when they go to college?

I have been a teacher for 14 years.
I have been a mother for 5.
This week, my 2 selves collided in a way I couldn't possibly understand until now.
I think I'm a good teacher. For the most part, my students have always liked being in my class. I've always tried to be kind. I've always struggled to teach my students to the best of my ability. I have always been in it "for the right reasons."
I thought I really "got it"...the power of a teacher.
14 years, 4 different grade levels, 2 schools, and probably 400+ students later, I really "got it."
But my professional epiphany had nothing to do with my job.

On Sunday night, I lay in bed, trying to sleep, looking forward to the school year ahead, and thinking about my boys. Ben would start his first day of VPK with 2 certified real-deal degreed teachers and weekly homework (!) that Monday morning. Aidan Kai (my little rambunctious just-turned-two baby!) would be starting his first day of "school" in the "baby class" at his big brother's school that Tuesday. And as I lay there, I realized the amount of hope and trust I was placing in these teachers, these women who would be helping to mold my little boys over the next year. I was excited for my boys. They would learn and play and jump and laugh and cry and push the limits with these teachers. And in that moment, in the darkness of my room, I realized that, most likely, in many homes a few miles away, there were other moms (and probably dads) thinking the same thoughts and having the same feelings...about Me. Those parents were probably also laying in their beds, wondering what would be in store for their children when they entered my classroom the next day, hoping and trusting, too.

That was the moment when I truly realized the importance of my job.

And the incredible amount of gratitude I feel towards these teachers when they show an extra moment of patience or tenderness or understanding with my boys.

Lesson learned.
* * *

Ben's been attending his school for 2 years. He started 2 days a week when he was three. Last year he increased to 3 days a week. Monday he started "official pre-k"...5 days a week, full time. He was excited and happy.

Each afternoon, he's worked on his homework for this week.

Sometimes, it's like pulling teeth:
"C'mon, Ben, focus." "No, Ben you have to do some of the writing yourself." "Ben! You know what a letter M looks like!"
Other times, it's mommy ecstasy:
"No, Mama, I want to write that part myself." "Let me show Daddy." "I know that Aidan's name starts with a letter A."
I can't quite believe I've arrived (so soon!) at the point in my parenting career where I have to come home (after an entire day of working with 52 kids) to patiently and lovingly teach one more kid.
* * *
Last school year, whenever we went to pick Ben up from school, Aidan Kai was the one who'd pick up his brother's lunchbox from the cubby and carry it to the car. He sometimes even asked to stay. So we decided this year, a full year sooner than Ben, we'd start him out at the same school 2 days a week for half days. Although I knew it was the right thing for him at this point, I was a wreck.
The morning went so smoothly that I was sure all hell would break loose at any moment. He ate his breakfast, he helped pick out his clothing, he picked up his lunchbox, and was ready to go. When we arrived, cringing that surely at any minute he'd start his usual schtick of "Up! Up!" and cling to us, he instead insisted on walking himself down the hall to the front door.
That picture?
It's the one that made me cry when I looked at it later as I pulled into the parking lot at work.
* * *
I feel like we've started a whole new chapter in our parenting lives. I'm excited and proud of our boys, but I'm a bit melancholy and emotional about the days we're leaving behind. The feeling I've been walking around with today is one I can't even put into words, which is probably why this post has turned into more of an account of the facts than one with a point. I just feel emotionally full and emotionally spent at the same time, and I knew I had to chronicle this event, because it's yet another in which I realize there are some things you can't understand until you're a mom.


  1. Your epiphany about mothers and teachers made me weepy. My kiddo goes back tomorrow and I am fervently hoping and trusting. Please let this teacher (who is new to his school) be what we need her to be.

    And Aidan Kai when his lunch box looking so grown up made me smile. Second borns are so much quicker to leave us behind, but only because they are traveling in their big brother/sister's footsteps. I imagine Bella will be the same way.

  2. Wow..this brought tears to my eyes..I get the sentiment, I do. I am not a teacher but have been working with our 3 year old on spelling and he is already writing his name...and then there will be a time when he doesn't "need" my help as much because he has already started the "I can do it myself".

    Love, love, love the pics too. SO adorable.

  3. I hate to tell you - it doesn't get much easier. I already get weep-y just thinking about college in two short years. I keep telling him that the local college here in town is a FINE school (it really is!) but he just rolls his eyes. What handsome boys, Liz! I know you are so proud.

  4. Now, you understand. You are handing over a piece of your heart. And when you make that realization, you work that much harder to make every child feel wanted, special, valued.

    So grateful you are there with my first...for your observations, his enthusiasm, your epiphany...Thank you...

  5. My son starts his 3rd proper year at school next week. I don't know where the time goes. Your thoughts are of course correct, we deliver our children to the teachers and trust in them to give our children their understanding, encourage them and let them grow. So far, I have been so lucky, my son has adored his teachers. Thank you teachers - you are wonderful people!!

  6. I just wrote a comment to you on The Bottom of the Ironing Basket - about how it felt like you wrote down my thoughts - and now I come to your own blog and read about your thoughts on being a teacher, and now I have to write the same thing here! I am a teacher too. I don't have any kids of my own yet, so right now my students are my children. And you're right. I'm also in it for all the right reasons, but you don't think about that in everyday life, when you have to correct papers and prepare classes. But when the school year comes to an end and these wonderful young people express in mails and letters to you how thankful they are and you can tell at the exams that they actually did listen:-), you feel like the luckiest person alive!
    Thanks for yet another great post. I think you are a wonderful human being and I bet you are a great teacher as well.


  7. Oh this brought such a lump to my throat...so beautifully written Liz!

    My son starts full-time school next week...on the same day he also turns 5. I know he is so ready but I have been a full-time mother with him....I am ready for it too but I am also dreading it. A whole new chapter for sure......exciting and scary....I am going to be by myself....yikes!!

    I loved your guest-post for me.....I hope you read all the lovely comments people left for you over at mine....people really connected with what you wrote. Thank you xoxo

  8. Yes, yes, yes.
    I have a teaching degree and understand 'that side' of things. But I also have four children, who range in age from almost 10 to 18. We've lived in four states since we've had kids and seen many, many teachers at back to school nights. I always wonder if they realize, REALLY realize how much I count on them to help my child grow.
    Academically? Sure. But also as a person. When they love going to school because they love being in the company of that one special teacher, I know it's going to be a good year.

    Thanks for being that teacher to someone else's kid. The universe of moms appreciates you. :)



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