Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Tale of Two Teachers

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.


Craig said...

Sweet story.

All our kids have gone to the same school. I think six of them had the same kindergarten teacher. In fact, there are two teachers, one in fifth grade, and the other the middle-school lit teacher, who've taught seven of 'em, and if they don't retire in the next couple years, they'll teach all eight.

Moosekahl said...

Dang, that one made me cry. Reminded me of my 1st grade teacher. She taught both my sister and I. She use to make home made popsicles with some sort of jello mixture for our birthdays. When she retired we put together a book of our favorite stories for her. She said she was retiring because her popsicle molds were getting old. I offered to buy her new molds :) Teachers like that are far and few between and should be honored.

G-Man said...

Would you please write my Obituary?
Not Today...But whenever?

Loved your Essay!

Anonymous said...

I have three distinct memories of kindergarten:
1) my desk had a squirrel sticker on it.
2) the day I actually took a nap at nap time
3) I was taking this nasty bright red iron medication. One day, sitting in the ever-present kindergarten circle on the carpet I puked on the kid next to me. I'm sure it traumatized many kids because most people, including the teacher, thought I was hurling blood, thanx to the medication.
Oh, and they had to replace the carpet

Suldog said...

This is absolutely perfect. I was tearing up, and I don't tear up easily. I can only imagine how wonderful it will be for this magnificent nurturer to receive such a glowing tribute from you.

God bless her, and you.

Bijoux said...

My kids were all fortunate to have wonderful kindergarten teachers. What a testimony you have given!

S said...

We love our kindergarten teacher too!

Cricket said...

Yep. Very nice tribute.

The kindergarten teacher for 20 years here has, through politics and budget cuts, wound up in grade 1 for next year. I really hope she's back in K when it's time for #2.

Cricket said...

p.s. - I wonder if Miss Lime spent as much time in the office as I did, back in the day? As evidence, I can still remember the full name of every principal and assistant principal I ever had. That says something.

Ananda girl said...

That is so beautiful. I have had good teachers and awful teachers and they did indeed mold how I felt about myself and school. Your children were blessed.

I did not spend much time in the principal's office. But I am pretty sure I spent most of 3rd grade recess in the "cloak room". I still have the report card with the comment "Rebecca need to learn to be less chatty!"

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful tribute, Lime, just beautiful. How touched that kind woman must have been to read it.

It is a job that requires true dedication as the first teacher a child has can set the seal on that childs future.

for a different kind of girl said...

I still remember so very much about my kindergarten teacher and how she impacted me at even a young age. Years and years later, when I was editor of a community newspaper, I wrote a column about my kindergarten teacher, never dreaming anyone would know her, but just wanting to share how she had given me so many fond memories. The week the paper came out, I heard a man at the front desk talking about the column and buying several copies of the paper, so I went out to see what was going on. When I introduced myself to the man, he informed me he was my kindergarten teacher's brother, and that she was retiring! He then asked me to come to the open house being hosted for her to surprise her by reading the column aloud. It was completely my honor, and I can only hope I did my former teacher proud. They are definitely special people in the field!

Hilary said...

Just beautiful, Lime. I'm wondering though how your kidlets and mine had the same kindergarten teacher in two different countries. It sounds like your kids' experience was exactly like my boys had. My younger one knew her classroom inside and out at the age of 2. He was welcomed into her circle each time I worked at the school, which was often. She wept each year to have to say "goodbye for now" to each of her students and she nurtured two generations of citizens before she retired a few years after my younger one had her. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to write her a long, glowing letter once my sons moved on. This is such a lovely post. You've inspired me to try and find her online so that I can share your lovely words with her. Thanks for that.

Craver Vii said...

That was sweet. It is rare to encounter a person of such greatness.

I echo your blessing for her.

Jocelyn said...

What is most amazing is that she was able to maintain her love of kids in general and ability to see each one in his/her individuality...year after year after year. She didn't erode.

Unknown said...

I hope you print this and give it to her. I'm sure she would love to have a copy.

Dave said...

That was a lovely story Michelle. Well done! Congratulations too for getting Hilary's Blog of the Week. - Dave. (P.S. I'm back now too...)

VM Sehy Photography said...

My son had a first grade teacher that is a natural. I don't think anyone will ever shine for me the way she does. I was foturnate enough that I got to be an overflow aide in her classroom. (I too had spent many years volunteering in my son's classrooms and even running the parent group for a couple of years, so working there seemed like the next step.) I learned so much from her. How to teach. Even how to parent. I will probably cry when she retires. So I understand how such an event can be sad.

Joanna Jenkins said...

What an awesome teacher! I wish they were all like that.

Congrats on your POTW from Hilary-- It's well deserved.


Teri said...

DEFINITELY leave it in her mailbox. I had a couple teachers like that and often thought about writing them to tell them how special they were to me. Then things would come up and I didn't get around to it.

Now it's too late...

She Who Carries Camera said...

This brought a tear to my eye! What a wonderful person and teacher! My Mom always tells the story about my introduction to 1st grade and how i kept kicking and crying each morning not wanting to go (kindergarten was not a problem). Finally, she had to go and speak with the teacher to find out what was wrong. She found out that on the first day of school, the teacher made me sit by myself during lunch because I was caught whispering to another child during lunch (she apparently told the children to not speak while they were eating). Can you believe that??

I can see why Hilary awarded you the POTW!! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

What a great story and congratulations on being the Smitten Image's Post Of The Week!!