Yeah, yeah yeah, I know it's summer and no one wants to think about school. The other day I ran into the wonderful woman who was the kindergarten teacher for each of my children. To say this lady was made to be a kindergarten teacher doesn't quite do justice to her. She truly regarded it as a calling and approached her job and each student with enthusiasm, energy, compassion, and concern for the children as unique individuals. She told me during our brief meeting that she has decided this coming school year will be her last before she retires. I admit I welled up a little as we reminisced over the time she spent with my kids and as I considered the loss it will be to a special little school not to have her there any more. I decided after we parted that I was going to print out this story and have it waiting for her in her school mailbox for the first day of her last year of school. Since I posted it four years ago I figure it's safe to rerun it as few of you will have ever read it before.
The Tale of Two Teachers.
Once upon a time there was a little girl, named Lime who was ready for kindergarten. She was very excited and when the big yellow bus picked her up she gabbled all the way to school. Who would the teacher be? Who would her classmates be? What was the bus passing? Who would she sit with? What would the room look like? Would she get lost?
When the bus arrived a lady with pointy glasses, a wildly colored dress and a very tall bee-hive hairdo came to the bus and said she was their teacher (Years later when the girl was grown she would know all the bee-hived women in pointy glasses depicted in Far Side cartoons were modeled on her kindergarten teacher). She led the children to their new classroom. "Here are your cubbies and here are your tables. Please put your things away and come sit down on the rug. The principal will be here in a minute to welcome you." The children did as they were asked and in came a short man in a baggy suit.
The man in the baggy suit said,"Good afternoon." Some children repeated his words, some looked out the window, some picked fluff off the rug, some picked their noses. He repeated himself more loudly. Some more children repeated his words, some giggled because he sounded like their whiny little brother and he was repeating himself insistently, just like the whiny little brother.
The man in the baggy suit started to say more words. He was using the grown up tone that says, "I am very important and you are small so you must listen very carefully," but his voice was still whiny and monotonous. And there was a whole shelf of interesting looking books, and stacks of colorful paper, and pretty fall leaves on the bulletin board, and that girl has pretty pigtails, and that boy has a lot of freckles, and how does the teacher get her hair to stay like that, and the man in the baggy suit kept talking and talking and talking and whining and whining and whining.
Little Lime noticed the girl on her left was talking to the other girl next to her. The boy on her right was still picking his nose and he was wiping it on the rug next to her. She leaned over and said, "That's yucky, you better not get boogers on me." The man in the baggy suit noticed that the children were paying more attention to everything but his whiny words and said, "One of the things we will learn in kindergarten is how to keep our mouths shut when it is time to learn because some of us have very big mouths." Now Little Lime came from a family where personal opinions were uncensored and offered freely and where astute observations were commended. So she waved her hand enthusiastically in the air (having listened to the man in the baggy suit explain that this was the expected manner for taking turns speaking) to share her great insight. The man in the baggy suit pointed to her and she proudly exclaimed, "We know who has the biggest mouth of all! You do!" Thus it came to pass that Little Lime had a note home to her poor mortified mother on the first day of kindergarten.
Lime grew and she grew and she grew. She married Mr. Lime and they had 3 lovely Limelets of their own. It came about that it was time for the first Limelette to go to kindergarten. Lime remembered her somewhat bumpy introduction to kindergarten. Knowing that Diana is even more inclined to freely offer her unvarnished opinion than Lime herself, Lime was a bit concerned about Diana's introduction to kindergarten. When the day arrived Lime walked Diana to school. All the other children lined up with their bright new clothes and shiny bags and happy faces. Diana marched up the steps to join them confidently. Out came a smiling woman with gentle eyes and a gentle voice and and gentle, happy greeting, "Welcome to kindergarten, boys and girls. We have so many wonderful things to learn together." As Diana marched in Lime had an odd sort of realization that Another Woman would now help mold and shape her precious Limelette. She didn't know if she liked that idea or not. Her concerns were soon put to rest as the gentle teacher embraced Diana's fierce little personality and found opportunities for her to use her boldness for good.
When Calypso turned 4 she knew her turn with the teacher with the gentle eyes, voice, and smile would come soon. She asked her mother every day for a year, "How many days until I turn 5 and can go to kindergarten?" Every time she saw the gentle teacher she asked, "How many more days until I can be in your class?" The gentle teacher always said, "Soon my dear, and I can't wait either." Eventually after many days and many repetitions of the question and answer, Calypso lined up with all the other children in front of the school and wiggled excitedly. The smiling teacher with the gentle eyes, and gentle voice came out to meet the class. She leaned down to Calypso and said, "Guess what?" Calypso looked up with shining eyes and asked, "What?" The gentle teacher smiled wide, her own eyes shining with joy and answered, "TODAY IS FINALLY HERE! And I am soooo glad to have you in my class!" As the class followed the gentle teacher in Lime smiled knowing Calypso was in caring hands. This would be proven over and over when the Lime family suffered 2 deaths in the first part of the school year. The gentle teacher never failed to offer hugs, tissues, and kind words on the days when Calypso had the hardest times.
Finally, the day came when Isaac was ready for kindergarten. Since Lime had helped so often in the gentle teacher's class and the teacher had always said Isaac should come along, Isaac knew the gentle teacher very well. He knew where to find the room in the school. He knew where to find everything in the room when he got there. The first day of kindergarten was a mere technicality to him. But the gentle teacher was also wise and wanted it to be a special day for all her students. Isaac lined up with all the other new kindergartners. The gentle teacher came out to meet the class and she exclaimed to Isaac, "Welcome to kindergarten, my dear! Today, you don't just get to visit my class. Today you get to stay and today you get your very own spot in my class!" The gentle teacher celebrated Isaac's achievements with him just as enthusiastically as she did with his sisters because even though she had guided so many children it was always new for each child. Isaac and the gentle teacher also enjoyed sharing their little secret of having been "long-time friends" before he ever came to school.
At the end of Isaac's kindergarten year Lime felt a bit sad knowing it was the end of an era with the gentle teacher. She told the gentle teacher how she had wondered about her on the first day Diana went to kindergarten. Then Lime said, "I am so glad each of my children got to start their school career with you. In all my imagination there does not exist a more wonderful kindergarten teacher than you." The gentle teacher shed a little tear and cried, "Thank you, I needed to hear that."
And now, may all the gentleness, love, and joy the gentle teacher has given over the years be returned to her many times over in her retirement.