Dear Early Elementary Teachers,
Tonight I snuggled up next to my daughter while she giggled and tooted on me before I kissed her goodnight, I laughed so hard I almost cried because she is so hysterical and I honestly dread the upcoming school year. I am not one of those moms who can’t wait to send the kids back to school. Even with the whining of “I’m bored” and a bazillion requests to watch more of her favorite shows, I have no problem listing out “extra chores for you do to unless you find something else,” and then watching her come alive in creativity.
I’m a teacher, and for me, I look forward to the upcoming school year. I am eager to get my room ready and watch my wide-eyed bunch of brand new babies come through my door. I can’t wait to watch them grow this year.
But I dread the start of school for her.
I absolutely LOVE being home with my girl.
Her summer is filled with swimming, coloring, lightning bugs, ice cream, dancing, ninja training, scooters, bikes, Legos, baby dolls, sidewalk chalk, Grammie and cousins and friends outside. After a few workbook pages of ABC’s and 123’s, she is able to watch TV or the iPad. Life is good and exactly how it should be when you are 6.
There is no stress to rush out the door.
She gets a full night’s sleep and doesn’t have to wake up at 6:30 to start her 6 year old day.
She can finish a creative thought and not get hurried along or told there is no time to share stories right now.
She can sing when the mood strikes, and for our house that is quite often.
She can run and jump and pretend to be a ninja instead of quietly walking a hall.
She can lay on her belly to color and talk to her crayons while she draws.
Teachers, I know you will probably have to ensure your students make growth this year according to some arbitrary assessment that doesn’t even cover what you teach. There will probably be a lot of people who haven’t actually been in a classroom in a long time telling you what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. I know you will probably have 25+ kiddos in your classroom. I know that you will probably have little support during the day and be hoping someone passes by in the hall so you can ask them to watch your class for a few minutes and run to the bathroom to pee for the first time in 5 hours. I know you will hate hearing the word data come the end of October. Because I will be right there with you, day in and day out, loving on my new wonderful wonders and trying to meet all the demands of what the education system has become.
But please remember my girl when you are frustrated with one or all of the darlings in your four walls this year.
My darling spent exactly 49 minutes in the tub tonight pretending to be a mermaid in Australia and Africa. She then dried off and explained how each one of the gems on her ninja mask gave her a different power and acted it all out for me. Earlier today, she was wearing a ballerina costume and making up a dance to the Trolls soundtrack. And even earlier she played at the park for over an hour, climbing UP the slide. Yesterday, she sat on my lap giving me kisses and telling me that she loved me more than I loved her for about 15 minutes. Then we took selfies for a few minutes more.
She played with her dog for 20 minutes until the neighbor friends came to the door and then she played outside (and I had no idea what she was doing, but I heard her yelling with imagination) for close to 2 hours. Later, she dressed like Queen Elsa and emerged from her room not long after an hour long Ninjago Netflix binge.
She has a collection of sticks and they are all special to her and she keeps them in a special place. However, she doesn’t know how to keep track of a pair of shoes for an entire day let alone a basket full of school supplies for a whole school year. She stutters at times because her speech can’t keep up with her ever racing thoughts. She plays with Barbies and dinosaurs at the same time and wrestles her dad like she is a high school boy. She slept in a fort in our living room for an entire week. She just learned how to jump off the diving board and swim to the shallow end without a floaty this week and she climbs trees in dresses. She prefers to wear only her undies around the house and run barefoot outside. She has requested to be called L-Loyd while we argue/sing about who is actually Moana on car rides.
I like to think she is exceptional, but I know better. She is every 6 year old. She is going into kindergarten. I thank God every day I chose Young 5’s last year, because I cannot for the life of me imagine her in first grade in September. She is my wild child. Free spirit. She only wants to be contained in a box if she is turning it into a spaceship and flying to outer space.
Teachers, your students…they are all someone’s wild child. They are all spirited and unique and someone’s late night giggles and toots. Please encourage their creativity. Embrace their inner wild and find a way to play all day while disguising it as learning. Don’t put them in a box of marking period expectations. Let their childhood be the fuel to your teacher soul. I am not some whiny mom who never wants my child to grow up to follow social norms and not act feral in public. I just want my child and every other child, to grow and thrive and learn and contribute to this world in their own unique way without their spirits being squashed to fit someone else’s mold. I want them to go at the pace necessary for their individual life. I want children to enjoy early childhood for every second possible. I want creative thinking and discussing all points of view to trump pencil paper and computerized outcomes. I want children to have time for empathy and compassion and free play and problem solving and more creative thinking. I want each teacher to forget about data a few times a week and let children take the lead and lead you back to the reason you decided to teach in the first place.
And if you can do that, you will be spreading your love into each one of their homes.
Good luck, teachers. When you get one like my Sweet V, let her remind you to stay out of the box this year. Every child (and mom like me) is counting on you.
High five for home.