A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops. — Henry Brooks Adams
Until Sarah started kindergarten, I had been very engaged in everything she did. The day care knew me all too well. I was known to drop in at random times and treat all the kids like they belonged to me. All the teachers and most of the parents knew me, and the majority of them were in my contacts list. We texted when we needed to and sometimes when we just wanted to.
That easy, comfortable relationship came naturally to me. I like people, and I like to know who is in charge of my children when I can’t be there. It stood to reason that I would be as involved as possible. Anyone who knew me knew that I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We have been gone from our previous day care since August 2010, and I still speak to some of the teachers from there on a fairly frequent basis. I took engagement and bridal pictures for one of them and attended her wedding with a tear in my eye as if one of my best friends were getting married. Another is getting married this month, and I have been agonizing over the perfect gift for quite some time. Yet another is having her first baby, and I’m following her progress on Facebook and eagerly awaiting the announcement of the baby’s gender as if the mother is part of our family.
In reality, they are part of our family. These women who care for our children are their other mothers when we can’t be there. They spend more waking hours of the day with our girls than we do, and, even though I hate to admit it, they get to see more of the “firsts” than we do – first steps, first words, first time going down the big slide without being scared.
So when the time came for Sarah to start kindergarten, I was pretty sure I was going to have a stroke. I had so many concerns that mostly centered on the fact that I wouldn’t be able to be as engaged in every aspect of her daily life as I had always been.
Would she make friends? How would she fit in? What would she find easy and would there be things with which she would struggle? Would she learn the rules and do well with following them?
Deep in my racing, stressed-out heart, I knew she would be okay, but I couldn’t help the odd things that pinged through my mind as our oldest child marched unprecedentedly boldly into new territory.
One of my main concerns centered on who her teacher would be. Would it be someone we would like and with whom we would easily get along? Maybe she would be someone who was too strict, too soft, too serious or too silly. She might be someone who was new to education and unsure of how to manage the classroom. How would she make Sarah feel about learning? Would she inspire our child or squash her dreams?
A year later, we are wrapping up Sarah’s kindergarten year, and I am happy to report that Sarah is soaring on the wings of divine inspiration.
Does she like every subject equally? No, but she has discovered a love of math she never knew she had, and she is quite fond of science as well.
Is she leaving kindergarten reading on a fourth-grade level? No, and that’s okay. We do not want her to be pressured to over-achieve just for our own chest-beating pride. She is reading well enough that we can’t spell things we want to keep private around her anymore, and she still loves books. Even though she has realized reading isn’t always easy and that she has a few struggles with her developing skills, she is in love with the idea of words and reading and the imagination that can be discovered in the pages of a book.
Has she made her lifelong best friend who will some day be her maid of honor and be by her side for all of Life’s ups and downs? Probably not, and that’s okay, too. She met a lot of kids through her class, cheer, Girl Scouts and the YMCA after-school program. She has learned some tough lessons about friendship at a far-too-young age, and she survived. We are just now finishing kindergarten. True friendships take time to cultivate.
Is she ready for first grade? Thankfully, I can report the answer is “yes.” Those wings of inspiration on which Sarah finds herself soaring as the year wraps up were lovingly and patiently crafted over the last nine months by our wonderfully right-for-us Mrs. Amy Adams, and her guidance has established for Sarah an exceptionally well-laid foundation for the years ahead.
We met Mrs. Adams for the first time when we went to the school for Kindergarten Roundup. She seemed nice, but there isn’t much you can really tell about a person in such a short encounter. Later that evening, we returned to the school for a spring festival they were hosting, and Sarah wasn’t so sure she wanted to be there.
The festival was being held in the auditorium. Because of long-lingering fears from an awful experience at a day care she attended, she had a terrible fear of large, open rooms that resembled a gym. I wasn’t going to make her go in, but we approached the auditorium’s door with the simple hope that she might not drop into the fetal position screaming and wetting herself as she had done on two previous occasions when faced with similar circumstances.
(Yes, the awful experience she had was that bad. It’s a blog for another day. *sigh*)
Just outside the auditorium was a concession stand, and Mrs. Adams was taking her turn staffing it when we walked up to the door. About 10 steps out from the door, Sarah’s hand (which was firmly clasped in mine) became clammy. Her legs started shaking, and she slowed to a snail’s pace. Her face washed out to a gray, horrified look, and she came to a stop about four feet from the entrance to the auditorium.
Mrs. Adams saw her fear and began talking to her. She remembered us from Kindergarten Roundup and tried to help Sarah feel good about going into the auditorium. I briefly shared that she had experienced some negative things in a similar space and that we were proud of her for even considering going in. Mrs. Adams encouraged her to try and to be brave and flashed what we have since come to know as her signature day-brightening smile.
Sarah braved her way into the room that night. She stayed close by and held my hand quite a bit, but she had fun, which was all we could ask considering her previous reactions in similar situations.
Fast forward to Halloween 2012. Mrs. Adams had been Sarah’s teacher for about two months. Sarah had told me that whenever her class had to go in the auditorium Mrs. Adams always let her walk next to her and had held her hand a few times. They never discussed it or planned how they would proceed. Mrs. Adams just offered the little extra encouragement and sense of security when she felt it was needed.
We showed up for the Fall Festival, and Mrs. Adams was once again in the concession stand. She saw us approach and greeted us as we slowed down at the door, just as we had done in the Spring. Sarah went ahead slowly to walk into the auditorium, and as we moved through the doorway, I saw Mrs. Adams coming around the side.
She had gotten someone to watch the concession stand so she could meet Sarah in the auditorium and hold her hand if she needed encouragement. She asked if Sarah was okay, patted her on the back and let her know she was nearby if she needed her.
We hadn’t said anything to her to remind her of Sarah’s fears, and we hadn’t asked her to help. No one had said a word.
We didn’t need to.
Mrs. Adams just knew one of her kids needed her and moved quietly into action. She came out of the concession stand to meet Sarah in the auditorium so that as she looked into the angst and fear she saw on the other side of those doors, she would also see a familiar, compassionate face and know that everything was going to be okay.
How many people can say their kids are blessed with a teacher like that?
She remembered my child’s fears and took time to offer encouragement. She did not dismiss Sarah’s anxiety. She reacted with compassion and empathy, took time to acknowledge Sarah’s feelings and extended a helping hand when others would have laughed it off or made Sarah feel ridiculous for harboring these fears.
She might not even remember that incident, but I do. More importantly, Sarah does.
In our daughter’s first steps on her educational journey, she was lucky enough to have Mrs. Adams as her kindergarten teacher. She made Sarah feel warm and welcomed. She taught our child things that will stick with her for the rest of her Life. She helped our fear-filled little girl come out of her shell.
But no matter what else Mrs. Adams did to inspire Sarah to appreciate education or to want to learn, she was there in one critical moment when Sarah needed her. She will never know how much her simple act of kindness meant to Sarah that night or how many times a few tears have welled in my eyes as I thought back to that moment. In one instance of spontaneously kindhearted generosity and concern, she laid the foundation for our daughter’s educational attitudes and helped this Mama’s stressed-out heart slow to a normal, satisfied, confident pace.
Thank you, Mrs. Adams. Our Sarah is better for having met you. Your remarkable influence will stay with her – and her parents – long after she leaves your classroom for the last time.