Why we adore our kids’ teachers
“You’re just jealous mom.”
Ouch. Those are the cutting words Venom Pen spat at me as I dutifully ran my column ideas by the Worst Kids in the World for their insight, feedback and permission to write about them freely.
Not that he is wrong. For the past two weeks I have been joking (perhaps to disguise my envy) about his devotion and unabashed adoration for another woman, Mrs. Rogel, who taught his fifth grade year, two years ago at Medina Elementary.
To celebrate her retirement after 47 years of teaching kids to wear deodorant, appreciate weasels and take pride in themselves and their work, past students and parents were invited to a tribute party held at Bellevue High School. Hundreds of people from all over the country turned out to share their stories about how “Jeannine” impacted their lives. It was all very moving, and well-deserved, even if I had my reservations when I first learned that Venom Pen had been assigned to her class.
I selfishly wasn’t sure I could handle a teacher who “has a weird power over the world” as one friend puts it. My trepidation was fed by the nearly cult-like status bestowed upon her by parents of past students, and the impressive level of reverence she commands from both kids and parents. Everyone is so anxious to please her that I was once intercepted on my way to her classroom with a staff appreciation latte, because “that’s not the kind she likes.”
After a year spent avoiding any sort of volunteer time in her classroom, much to the relief of everyone I am sure, I get it. I super get it. Or rather Venom Pen got it; an invaluable sense of confidence, discipline and appreciation for his own abilities just before launching into the complicated middle school years.
At our first parent teacher conference I sat up straight and tried to keep my mouth shut as instructed, because I expected to not like what I was going to hear. Then, 15 minutes later, I happily turned my son over to Jeannine for the next seven months, because in those few moments she described my son to me with scary accuracy, she explained her goals and I caught a glimpse into her slightly controversial soul, and I liked it.
She was a perfect fit for Venom Pen and I am slowly managing to excuse her for the Paul Revere recitations that pop into my head at odd times, or the fact that in his lengthy love retirement letter to Jeannine, Venom Pen writes “You have been so impactful and important to every good thing I do to this day. …I am doing and achieving so much and I’m very proud. Of you. Because I would not have a single one of these things without your help and instruction.”
I will admit to some pangs of jealousy as I read it, but mostly I felt lucky that the class assignment overlords ignored my silent wishes and put my son in the hands of yet another teacher who really knows and loves him and taught him how to write a pretty amazing letter of appreciation. That alone is enough to forgive him for barely mentioning me … his real mother…in his fifth grade Heritage Project.
There are a lot of unsung “Jeannine’s” working hard every day in our public schools. All three of my kids have benefited from a rich diversity of inspirational teachers and personalities over the years.
I cherish Mrs. Carr the kindergarten teacher who lovingly protected and charmed her way into Sweetie Boy, Venom Pen and finally Sistafoo’s hearts with her warmth, candor and humor. Her devotion to her students shines through the genuine delight she exhibited towards the daily chaos of kindergarten catastrophes and kids-say-the-darnedest-things moments.
Sweetie Boy has a long list of educators who have taken the time to listen to his wild ideas, and patiently support and debate his curiosities and interests. I am already dreading saying good bye to Mrs. Real, Sistafoo’s funny and fabulous 1st AND 2nd grade teacher.
And I swear I am not just saying that because she sent me a text last week that says:
“If I ever have daughter, I hope she is just like yours.”
Wanna say Hiya to Heija? Follow her on Twitter (@Heija) Friend her on Facebook or relax, sit back, and silently judge her life in the flickering glow of your computer screen at her blog The Worst Mother in the World (www.Heija.com).