Right before we left for break, the girls’ school had their spring open house. All of the families were invited into the classrooms for the evening to chat with the teachers, see some of the work that our kiddos have been up to, and consume balls of ice cream in the school cafeteria that had been dished out by slightly disgruntled middle schoolers. Highlight of the night, for sure.
(Although this year’s fare came from a local shop – one of our favorites – so when Nick had to leave early, I didn’t exactly complain that I had to eat his ice cream, too. Taking one for the team and all.)
Last year, Nick had been out of town for open house and we’d Skyped to “show” him the girls’ work. While the use of technology was pretty rad, this time around, Annie and Ella were particularly interested in physically showing us all that they’ve been doing, and we spent a good thirty minutes in each of their classrooms poring over the details of every paper, wall hanging, display, and writing sample.
Y’all, these girls’ teachers work hard! From the careful and eye-catching room designs to the stacks of Look What I Can Do! papers on the desks to the way they so clearly knew the students, inside and out – we really lucked out with these ladies. And, hot damn, if our girls haven’t learned a few things this year! It was really something, seeing what had been considered “best work” in September versus where they are now. Enough something, in fact, that I didn’t even mind returning to the classroom after having spent all day in one.
Teachers are the best.
And I’m not talking about myself. Mostly.
My favorite part of the evening, though, was well and truly looking at, reading, taking in the work that the girls were showing us. There were math papers and journal entries, persuasive essays (Ella tried to convince us to get a bunny; her powers of persuasion aren’t strong enough yet), chapter stories, poems, computer essays, illustrations – and every single one of them was a perfect little encapsulation of who our kids are.
To wit, this poem by our still-Potter-obsessed daughter:
There are times when I’ve wondered if it’s too much Harry – if, four months after completing the series, Ella “should” have moved on more than she has… And then those “shoulds” are silenced by the simplest of poems: “a world that makes me smile all the time.” Why on earth would I want to make her leave that place? Amen, kiddo. Well played.
It should also be noted that this poem probably exactly follows the teacher’s directions: neatly written. Careful spacing. Repetitive words. Name, left. Date, right. A topic that she’s interested in, but nothing too flowery or showy, just what needs to be done, but still letting us peek inside a bit. In other words, perfectly, wonderfully Ella.
Annie’s work looks a bit different, and not just because she’s two years younger. Take, for example, this journal entry:
Allow me to translate.
The writing prompt is: I just can’t wait until I’m old enough…
I can’t wait till I’m old enough to get a car because then I can go to the mall and get mini pretzel bites with cheese. I just can’t wait until I’m old enough to get a phone because then I can take a bunch of selflies and I love selfies.
So. To recap: Annie is hungry, confident in her appearance (some might call that vain, but hey, when you’re cute, you’re cute), independent, and interested in the material things of this world. She’s also freakin’ hilarious, honest as hell, and a ridiculously accurate illustrator (please note the crossed legs in the drawing to the left, as well as the girl’s hand approaching her mouth – with pretzel bites, one would assume – which she is clearly delighted to be consuming, given her grin and how she’s closed her eyes with eager anticipation). In other words, perfectly, wonderfully Annie.
They could not be more different. Thank God, because now Nick and I get to experience two kinds of absolutely awesome every single day.
I know I’ve said it already, but these last few weeks balancing work and home have been hard. I think a huge part of that has to do with the fact that I thought I was going to be done before break – I was gearing up, throwing all of my energy into finishing, leaving nothing on the table – and then, BAM. Not done! (My therapist likened it to running a race – all out, full-on, expending all of the power you can muster – only to learn, steps before the finish line, that you need to run a few more miles.) I am just spent.
The work part is going fantastically well (if I do say so myself. Which I just did). I’m still loving every moment of teaching, my colleagues have been super, I got a really helpful and glowing review from my administrator (go, me!), and my students seem to dig me. It’s everything else that I just can’t quite get a handle on – piano, the house, the dogs, the kids, seeing friends (ha!), reading, exercise. The pieces just aren’t quite falling into place.
I’d actually been feeling that way prior to open house – maybe because I was really pushing to “finish” the teaching gig? – and had been feeling somewhat guilty. I haven’t been in the girls’ classrooms as often as in the past. I haven’t devoted as much time to talking about their homework. I haven’t had the energy to really chat with them about their lives, not the way I’d like to, anyway.
I basically felt like I was doing it all wrong. Parenting rocks.
Nick and I both marveled at the technology that the girls are using in their classrooms. They have computer lab time each week – that much I knew – and their teachers use SMART boards (which I can now successfully navigate, thank you very much), but I had no idea how much they were using iPads and laptops to do their work, too. One of the things that Annie’s teacher had pulled aside for open house was a computer story that each child had written. Annie just had to log in (holy crap, log in! She’s seven) and pull up her tale, titled something like “My Day At School,” and then we could see it come to life, complete with her own illustrations and text, animated pages turning. It was really cool.
“During math I love to play games with my friends and make patterns.”
We were taken through her whole day – arrival, classwork, specials, lunch – and it was pretty basic, school-related stuff. As such, I was completely unprepared for the final line of her story:
The best part of my day is… walking home with my mom.
And suddenly, I’m wiping away tears and smiling like a watery buffoon and trying to make my way over to the word wall or the reading corner and pretending that I’m not getting teary in the middle of a crowded classroom filled with miniature chairs and an excess of Purell.
So maybe I haven’t done it all wrong. Some things have been less than stellar, sure, and I’m still off-balance (I stayed up crazy-late on Monday night to make brownies for teacher appreciation day… which, I remembered on Tuesday morning, is next Tuesday, not yesterday. Which is probably good, because I tried a new recipe and the brownies tasted like crap and I would have hated for our good name to be sullied by those foul treats). But there’s wonderful in there, too. Lots of it.
It’s also a nice coincidence, because the best part of my day is spending it with these girls and the guy with whom I made them.
Throw in some sweet tea (I just made my first batch yesterday; YUM), and I’ve really got it good.