I have a huge respect for teachers. Especially teachers of small children. Can you imagine spending your day in an elementary school? They all have that distinctive pee smell that never, ever, ever goes away. You could be completely lost, blindfolded, turned around 16 ways from Sunday, and you could smell that smell and IMMEDIATELY pinpoint your surroundings. I, for one, could not mold young minds while constantly surrounded by Eau-de-Old-Urine.
Or have you ever really tried to talk to a 5-8 year old you don’t know very well? This is the age where they really start to practice lying, and their stories are always so overblown and confusing that you’re never sure if you’re being taken for a ride or not, and even if you think you’re being lied to, you aren’t the million percent positive that you need to be in order to call them on it. (“Why, yes, Mrs. X., my wife DID run away with a troupe of mimes, and I would appreciate it if you would not harass my son about it anymore- he’s very upset.”). Oops.
TEACHERS DO THIS STUFF EVERY DAY.
Years ago, Jason got a substantial speeding ticket that he neglected to pay (or rather, he assumed his wife would pay it, and she had better things to do and was trying to teach him a lesson). We then moved, and forgot all about it, till one day, a police officer showed up at our door with a summons for my husband to appear in court to explain to a judge why he had never paid it, and who would then decide on an appropriate fine to be added on top of the original ticket. This interchange was fascinating to Isaiah, who watched the whole thing with giddy excitement. It was like cops and robbers! Only at HOME! Afterwards, we had a long family conversation about how rules are for everyone, and how even if you forget the rules, that’s no excuse for breaking them.
I forgot about the whole thing until the following Monday, when I picked Isaiah up from school, and we discussed his day. What he had learned, who he had played with, and what today's snack was. As we entered the house, he casually discussed sharing time:
“Oh- and everybody wanted to play with me at recess today, 'cause of my dad is gonna be on COPS.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him, my heart sinking to roughly the level of my knees.
“I told them all how daddy can't remember to follow the laws and then the police came to our house to yell at him and take away all his money.”
I almost barfed. I scooped Isaiah up under my arms and SPRINTED the 3 blocks back to the school. I barrelled in through the doors and slammed into the classroom just in time to catch his teacher putting on her jacket and picking up her purse. I gasped out the REAL version of the story, silently praying that she had not already called child protective services, and all the while berating myself for ever teaching any of my children to speak.
“Oh, don’t worry about it at all”, laughed his teacher. “Stuff like this happens all the time. We get pretty good at separating the reality from the fantasy!”
I was so relieved. I had honestly thought by the time I got back there, they would already be debating who should get custody of my children after they had them removed from my care. It could have been SO much more embarrassing than it was.
Until the next morning, when, upon our arrival at the school, I received two beautiful baskets of homemade muffins, a Hallmark ‘Thinking of You’ card, scads of sympathetic half smiles, and three invitations for coffee ‘whenever you feel up to it’. It slowly dawned on me that no matter how many times I explained it, none of the other parents would ever really believe that I wasn’t desperately trying to hold together a family being torn apart by a no-good jailbird husband. They weren’t teachers. They didn’t get it.
Joking aside, teachers deserve all the thanks we can give them. My children's teachers prepare lesson plans, mark homework, and know what colors to mix to make brown. They plan and supervise field trips, get the right consistency to their papier-mâché, and mediate between students, parents, and uncounted combinations of the two. They police the school yards, spend one on one time with integrated learning disabled students, and remain on the lookout for signs of physical and sexual abuse. They feed children who arrive at school without having eaten, hunt down parents without the time or inclination to attend parent teacher interviews, and are pretty quick to figure out who smoked pot at lunch. They fix boo-boos, supervise the sharing of the swings and the basketball hoop, and serve as counselor to kids who have no one else to listen. They do all of this while trying to pound the principles of algebra into the brains of hormonal teenagers, and explain the concept of "i before e" to 27 hyperactive 8 year olds.