the ones who teach our children
last night it was grown-ups-squeeze-into-little-people’s-chairs-at-school night. with your knees cocked to your nose, and your bottom spilling off of the sides, it’s a very good posture, a very smart way, to start off the school year.
it makes you remember. it makes you think how it feels to sit in a little small chair. and look up to the teacher. and get a really fine chance through the year to study her chin. and zoom in on her heart.
the heart and the head up above it last night were very fine things. if i were still little and fit in those chairs, i wouldn’t budge. well, maybe to go to the girls’ room. but i could sit and learn from that teacher. for a very long time. well past first grade.
and that’s how you know you struck gold in the gold mine.
there are other ways, too.
when, out of the blue, just a day or two earlier, your little one tore open his backpack, unfolded a letter he said came from the principal (only really it came from the teacher). it was there on his desk in the morning, he said. no one else got one.
you read and you cry. and you turn over the teddy-bear paper, and it gets even better.
there is a someone you hardly just met, and already she’s telling your child how she sees he’s got big, big ideas. and she loves them.
and you think to yourself, this is a really smart teacher. no, not because she was sweet to your sweetheart. no, not that at all. (well, maybe a little.) no, you think that she’s smart, you know that she’s smart, because she figured out, maybe, that the little one she wrote to might just be wondering what in the world he is doing in there, where the water feels awfully deep.
and he’s just only learning to paddle. he’s not yet much of a swimmer. and all around him, he thinks and she understands, because she’s been teaching forever and she can spot from miles away the ones who might think that they need a lifeguard, he’s convinced the others might be ready for flip turns.
and that makes him worry inside. where unless you have x-rays for eyes, which some teachers certainly have, you wouldn’t see quite how worried he is. but she sees.
so before he has even a chance to begin to think that he’s lost, she’s tossed him the rope, reeled him in. made him believe–cuz the note was just a speck i happened to see, i know that there’s buckets besides–that he matters.
now that is an amazing discovery. when you’re six or sixteen or well beyond sixty-six sixes.
and that is, when you stop and you think, what makes me declare teachers are national treasures.
how many folks do you know who go to work each day to buff and to shine little hearts? to make them feel that they matter? and that they are smart? that they are in charge of the letters and sounds and the numbers?
my mother-in-law, a woman i love, has been teaching for 53 years. or maybe it’s just 52. she told me last week of a student she’d recently heard from, a man now, from her class from long long ago. he told her he loved coming to school because she was there in the classroom. and she hugged him each day, and she kissed him. he told her that growing up, that was the only place in the world he got kisses. he got nothing at home, not one single hug. i think she said he’s now a doctor. and he still remembers her lipstick, there on his cheek, when he walked out the door of her classroom.
where in the world would we be without these angels and saints right among us? these people who choose, with all of their gifts, to go into the classroom, to teach little children. these people who make it their work to stay up late in the night, to type letters to parents, to cut papers and glue, to take children who nearly are drowning, to show them the way to the side of the pool, and make it a triumph to get there.
do you know what it takes to be in a classroom, to have two dozen wandering minds that you spend your day reining in? and what about wiggly feets?
oh my God, i’d come home and faint. i don’t have what it takes, not at all. which is why, sitting there in that little wee chair, i sat with my jaw in my lap.
i say bring on the parade. get the floats and the roses. order up fireworks, too. these people are heroes among us.
on the sidewalks, at the grocery, or even the bank, they might look just like we do. but really they’re not, not at all. they must glow as they stand in the shower. they must smell of heavenly scents.
i know a saint when i see one. and i met one last night.
tell a tale of a teacher you love. this here at the table is national we-love-teachers day. why? because they’ve been at it all week, now, or maybe longer. they deserve breakfast in bed and slippers for their toes. short of that, we can give them their due down below. rattle on, flow from the heart. then tell the teacher you love to come and read it all here. i might be too shy to do so, but heck, let it rip, starting now….
oh, and before you do that, please sing a song, a rousing and most happy birthday to one of the queenliest souls that i know, an angel and saint in her own right, though at the moment she’s not in a classroom. elizabeth marie is her name. and she’s similarly heavenly-sent.
oh, one last thing: the note my little one got, up above, is part of a class-wide, yearlong endeavor. the teacher calls them secret letters, and you never know when one’s coming. but everyone gets one. i don’t want you to think she’s the sort who would leave anyone out. ever. he just got to go first. which was extremely nice. and as i said, smarter than smart. let the ovations begin…..the teacher ovations, i mean…