So I sort of lamed out on my last attempt to answer the kinderblog question2 This post is from three years ago. Not sure if I should share it or not. Maybe I will delete it later, I don’t know! But this is about one of my mentors and people who affected the way I think about teaching and education:
Repost from November 22, 2008
I just came from a viewing and tomorrow morning, the funeral. I am drinking beer in a cozy basement pub. They have the internets here and I am still without. But I ran over here to write about her so I wouldn’t forget the swirls of thoughts that bounced into my head for the short time I was there.
Oh, what a woman. She was my mentor and my friend. Her family had all of these pictures of her in the many crazy birthday hats we made while she taught in Pre School. She was my head for several years when I taught in the Pre School.
The hardest thing to give you here is a picture of what it’s like to be a teacher of young children. Although it’s a people job, it is a very isolated life. I mean, you are lucky to have another adult in the room teeming with three and four year old energy and even luckier to have one who “gets it” and can laugh when it’s time to throw in the towel and laugh. And there’s zero glory. Even elementary school teachers are sometimes “remembered” by whomever, but how many people can remember back to when you were three years old.!? Nobody! You may do amazing things worthy of Academy Awards, but no one sees you. MAybe- MAYbe your teaching partner sees if you are lucky, or you get to see them, but those moments are quick and soon forgotten because all the while Johnny is picking his nose. So much so that’s it’s not even a big deal anymore, you actually don’t even notice.
We would have been called “nursery school teachers” back in the day, but Pre School has taken over or the new term “JK”. Anyway, forget all that, I am trying to paint the picture.
In true Pre School fashion, I would now literally paint. Maybe with sponges or big brushes, little brushes, toothbrushes, my hands. She knew all of this stuff intimately and was a serious pro in dealing with kids, curriculum and parents. She knew her child development and never strayed or tried to replace “Jack Be Nimble” with something more flashy or popular at the time.
She wore beautiful, elegant clothes and yet never minded getting down on the floor to teach a lesson or tie a shoe. I still sing her sweet, simple, silly songs to the kids and they still eat them up. One of my favorite pictures the family displayed showed the three-year-old class photo from 1981. The kids were all standing in front of twenty-two witch paintings with a poster behind them saying, “Wanda, the Wonderful, Wacky, Weird, Witty, Wicked Witch” and she sat next to them, her face just glowing with a playful, joyous energy. It was “w” week.
Her face always glowed- in every picture she was always just lit from within somewhere. And her life was by no means easy. She lost a sibling at a very young age- he fell through the ice as she watched. She fought cancer and won. Years later, she lost a grown son. Two weeks after that, the cancer came back. She was on chemotherapy for the last four years, but you’d never know it. She glowed throughout.
But I want to remember the young children part more. Because that’s an essential part of who this woman was and what she meant to me. She really just loved children. And this is the part I guess I never really thought of before in the grand scheme of things.
Here she was, this beautiful, glowing, elegant woman surrounded by all of these children. And that was her job. How amazing. Look at what her life represented. Simplicity, joy, laughter- it’s really beautiful to see a life in such a clear focus like that.
You always run the risk, at parties and such, when the big guns are out and everyone asks what you do for a living and you say, “Kindergarten teacher or Pre School teacher” that you get a pat on the head, and a “cute” or “how nice” or the dreaded “you must have a lot of patience” response. It’s none of those. Really, you are just a sucker for a good time and you can do a lot with pipe cleaners. : )
It’s a job just so sweetly simple. I really never thought about it before.
She makes me think of the best in this life- the sweetness and the fun and the joy that’s all around us.
That’s all. I hope I didn’t share too much, but I just want to remember somewhere I can look back to no matter where I am and think of everything.
I’m getting shy now and I’m going to get another beer.
November 22, 2008