Monday, August 30, 2010

"Oh yeah! You're my teacher!"

I experienced yet another first today.  Kinley had a momentary lapse where she forgot that I was her teacher.  Seriously.  All I've been thinking about for months now is this whole mommy/teacher thing, and Kinley is able to block it out after just 10 days together.  Unbelievable.

Here's what happened.  After school, Kinley was working on her spelling homework.  In my class, the students have individualized spelling lists that are totally based on what words each individual child needs to work on.  That means that the children can have anywhere from 0-15 words to learn each week depending on their prior knowledge.  Generally, no two students have the same list, and it's a really big deal for the kids to have fewer than 15 words.

Kinley looked up from her homework and said, "Hey, mom!  Guess how many spelling words I have this week!"  I mentally flipped through my stack of student lists and replied, "Uh, nine, right?"  She gave me a how-could-you-possibly-know-that look, and then said, "Oh yeah!  You're my teacher!"  She really had forgotten for a moment.  How does she do that?

I'm constantly reminded of our unique situation.  Last Monday, I was making breakfast when I noticed a letter on the counter that hadn't been there when I went to bed.  Kinley's Aunt Kelsey had emailed a letter of recommendation to Josh since Kinley was applying for a class job.  Josh had printed it out after I went to bed and left it on the counter for Kinley to take to school the next day. 

I decided to sneak a peek.  As I read Kelsey's words, I felt the tears coming yet again.  She described in detail Kinley's best attributes and even managed to make me forget the faults that I so often notice and pick apart in my daughter.  It was Day 5 of school, and the Cry Count was 3.  Not good.

Later that morning, I heard Josh helping her get dressed for school.  "Remember, today is your job interview.  You know Mommy likes your hair best in a bow, so be sure to wear one in your hair."  I do love a good bow, and Kinley didn't disappoint.  During her interview she was poised and pleasant.

I wasn't very worried at first about assigning her a job since I know she is often careless in her work.  I assumed her application would have several mistakes, and therefore it would be easier to eliminate her from the top classroom jobs.  Wrong.  She only had one mistake (a missing comma between the city and state), and she made some compelling arguments about why I should hire her for the jobs she wanted. 

Oh dear.  What now?  If I gave her a good job, everyone would assume it was because she was my child and not because she really nailed the application without my help.  If I intentionally gave her a job that wasn't on her list of three choices, I wasn't being fair to her.  How did I get myself into this?

In the end, she got her third choice - Substitute.  She gets to do the jobs of anyone who is absent.  She was happy, and I got to avoid a confrontation from fellow parents and the guilt of my conscience.  At least for now.

So how can my being her teacher slip her mind when so many of the decisions I've made at school the last 10 days have required me to focus on just that?  Maybe this is one more way all those prayers are working.  Maybe one day soon I'll say to her, "Guess what happened at school today?"  But so far, I doubt it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meet the Teacher Night at Mayflower Mill Elementary

Tonight was "Meet the Teacher Night" at my daughter's school, but it certainly wasn't the first time she had met her teacher.  Of the 24 students in her 4th/5th combined class, she is the only one who has known the teacher since the moment of her birth.  Her teacher is me.  Her mother.

When I found out in June of 2009 that Kinley had been accepted into the 2nd/3rd Gifted and Talented class, I was a little stunned.  She hadn't been accepted at the end of 1st grade, and then, at the end of 2nd grade, she was scheduled to be in a regular 3rd grade class.  When the call came informing me that she had been moved into the GT class, I didn't know how to react.  I had already made my peace with her placement and had decided that God knew best.  And now, I was not only going to have to face the changes of having a child in an accelerated class, but I was going to have to prepare to be her teacher for the two years following 3rd grade since there is only one 4/5 GT class at our school.  And I teach it.

I quickly started thinking of options.  A)  We could decline.  Her 2nd grade year had been great, and I was confident in the skills of the teachers in the regular classrooms at Mayflower.  B)  We could accept but move her to the GT class at another elementary in our school corporation.  C)  I could move to teach another GT class at another school in our corporation.  D)  We could *gulp* accept, and I could be her teacher for 4th and 5th grades.

After much reassurance by my principal, we went with option D.  I immediately began asking for prayers from my friends, usually accompanied with an eye-roll and lots of sarcasm.  I should have been more sincere.

It wasn't until this summer that I began to pray in earnest for God to guide me through this process.  I know that my dear mother-in-law has been praying for the situation, too, and the results of those prayers have been evident over the last two weeks.

While tonight was the official parent meeting at school, classes actually began last Tuesday.  That was the day that Kinley requested that we take her traditional "first day of school" picture together this year.  I choked back tears as she skipped ahead of me to pose in front of our house with her bookbag.  I was so touched that she would think of marking our first day as teacher/student this way.  As we perfected our pose she whispered, "I am so excited about today, but I'm going to try to act just like every other student."  The tears now refused to be stifled.  Day 1, and I'm already crying.

The first day went really well.  Kinley chose a seat across the room from my desk.  (Actually, she first chose the desk closest to me until I explained that those seats were usually reserved for students who needed my attention most.)  She excitedly shared about her day with her daddy when we got home, and I retold him the highlights from my perspective after she went to bed.

Day 2 started with student presentations.  Each child was to bring in three items --small enough to fit in a lunch sack -- that represent themselves.  Josh had helped Kinley choose her items since I felt strongly that she shouldn't get extra help from her teacher on assignments.  So during her presentation, when she pulled out her items, I was curious to hear her explain how they related to her personality.  When, at the end of her presentation, her classmates began to ask her questions about her world travels, I was so filled with pride to hear her intelligent, well-thought-out answers that I started to CRY!  This was certainly an unexpected consequence!  This year was going to be full of surprises.

So tonight when I made my traditional parent-night speech, I shouldn't have been surprised when my daughter was one of the first to raise her hand with a question.  And afterwards, when her daddy critiqued my spiel (granted, I asked for his opinion), it should have seemed normal.  But it doesn't.  Not yet anyway.