Ready or not here they come!

By ELIZABETH QUINN,

I saw a meme that said ‘There is something magical about an empty classroom in the summer. You can just imagine all the possibilities to come.’ Or something like that; I can’t remember exactly because I scrolled past it pretty quickly after thinking, ‘It’s magical because it’s quiet—but I’m about to send them back to you!’

It’s almost time for my children to return to the loving care of people who feel called to ignore their bodily needs (i.e. potty breaks, sitting down a spell, finishing lunch without having to tell anyone that we do not draw in our ketchup) in order to fill the sponges that are my children’s brains. I have to do all of those things too, but as their mother—I’m allowed to lock them outside with the hose so I can go to the bathroom alone just one time today. God bless the teachers.

My children’s teachers have been amazing. I don’t just mean this because they deal with my children for seven hours a day and are the reason my kids can read and stuff. I mean because they text me when my child is the only one not dressed up for Nursery Rhyme dress-up day (which I was emailed about and had a letter sent home about and was noted on the list of important dates I was given no less than three times.) She knew I lived close by and she knew my girl was super sad—and we did get her outfit there in time to join the parade with her friends. If I hadn’t been able to get one to her, she would have pilfered from the classrooms to costume her adequately—of this I have no doubt. She was three-years-old—so this was on me. Her teacher could have scavenged something to work; but she went the extra mile to get my girl the costume we had picked out and then forgotten, the one she was excited about and then disappointed not to have. She cared enough to give it a try to save my kid from my mistake. God bless the teachers.

One teacher met with my kid before school to help her during a unit she was struggling with. I was worried she would be self-conscious about needing extra help but she came home telling me how good she did and all the things her teacher told her she was doing well. She had made extra help feel like extra encouragement—that’s a superpower.

One of my kiddos loves to read. When she met a major goal that she set for herself regarding reading, I texted the kindergarten teacher who taught that child how to read to tell her about it and said, ‘Look what you set in motion.’ Then I texted the first-grade teacher who made my kid understand that she was good at reading, who made her see it was a gift she should treasure and use and enjoy to tell her the same. They started out teaching my kid something they all need to learn: how to read. Then they saw the spark in her brain for it and set it on fire. That is a superpower.

At a parent/teacher conference once, a teacher told me, ‘Your child is never in a hurry to do anything; she savors her participation in everything and will outlive us all because she will never have high blood pressure.’ This was the diplomatic and kind way of describing my kid who takes forever to do anything. She was five at the time so speed wasn’t required often.

Her teacher went on to say, ‘The rest of the world and even school as she ages will convince her she needs to hurry up; those things will make her learn to work faster—don’t do anything now to change her love of becoming absorbed in something and taking her time with it. The things she will learn from that now are worth the extra time it takes to wait on her. Let life make her hurry up eventually and let her enjoy savoring things for now.’ This teacher told me my kid takes freaking forever to do stuff—which wasn’t news to us, but then she showed us how it was a gift of my child’s and to my child. Recognizing that and explaining that to parents is a superpower.

One year, one of my kid’s teachers was pregnant with her first baby. She didn’t just tell them, ’Hey—I’m having a baby!’ She wanted to do something more fun for her class. So, she made a math worksheet where the answers for each solved problem corresponded to a letter and they filled in the blanks with letters that spelled, ‘Your teacher is having a baby!’ They loved it so much they made her make extra copies to take home to their parents and made us all solve them too.

When she found out the sex of the baby, she asked a mom in the class who bakes for people to make cupcakes with pink icing for a special treat for the kids to enjoy and find out that her baby was a girl. They were totally invested in their class baby and my daughter asked me every day during the month of July if her class baby had been born yet.

This same teacher helped my disorganized child manage her responsibilities better than ever before in spite of her having more responsibility than ever before. This teacher made my kid feel she was a part of big life stuff with her and my child adored her so much that she wanted to be her best for her. That’s a superpower.

These are just a few examples of why teachers are superheroes. They also deal with: being paid a pittance of what they’re worth, being underappreciated, people assuming they only work until 3 p.m. and get the whole summer off scot-free (go ahead and laugh hard at that one teachers, we’ll wait for you to finish,) first-week of school students who have forgotten what a routine is and have brains the consistency of homemade slime after a summer of us parents giving up the fight over screen time, filling the holes left by parents who aren’t supporting their kids needs enough, playing diplomat and goalie and psychologist with parents who try to smooth out all the bumps in the road for their kids and think that’s being supportive, parents who say the funniest things like, ‘My child would NEVER…’ and ‘We don’t see that behavior at home,’ lunch room seating drama, playground inclusion woes, test anxiety, lack of test give-a-care, bright students being overlooked, struggling students being left behind, reminding parents to bring things to class parties because we sure won’t remember otherwise, finding plates (and nursery rhyme costumes) when we still forget, potty accidents if the kids are young, puberty firsts if the kids are middle school, and I can’t even let my brain go to the body issues teacher must be on the lookout for in high school, hurt feelings, breaking hearts, bruised egos, and broken spirits. I worry about plenty of things for my own kids, but I don’t have it in me to take on the watching, worrying, and caring for a whole classroom full of them every single year. I know there are teachers out there who don’t care this much—but I haven’t met them in my life and they don’t deserve the ink that should be written about the millions who do. God bless the teachers.

The end of the summer is a mixed bag of emotions for me. I’m ready for some structure again; I’m ready for my kids to go away somewhere I don’t have to feel guilty about like when my kids convince my mom to take them to Chuck E. Cheese. I’m out of creative ideas. We’ve done all the things that I have in me to do this summer and I can’t put sunscreen on them one. more. time. I’ll lose my mind the next time one of them says, ‘I’m staaaarrrrving,’ at 10 a.m. when they’ve had breakfast and three snacks already. I can’t explain why we can’t go to the beach/play in the thunderstorm/go to the toy store to buy stuff/go to Chuck E. Cheese again/go to the trampoline park/have five friends spend the night every single day anymore. It doesn’t matter how many times I say, ‘Go ride your bike or read—those are your choices today,’ they still think I am their cruise ship director and that we live at Disney. The tank is empty.

On the other hand, they have finally started sleeping late—too bad it’s the week before school starts back. It’s nice to not live and die by my carpool calendar. I don’t spend a portion of every single day thinking, ‘I feel like I’m forgetting something.’ We don’t have that much stuff to forget—and that’s a beautiful thing. If I get a wild hair and decide I want to take them to Parham Bridges on a Wednesday morning, I can. If we want to stay up late to play Memory one more time, we do.

All the freedom of summer is nice. And—all the freedom of summer is killing me. It’s a conflicting time and I haven’t figured out yet if I’m more ‘it’s time for summer to end,’ or ‘I need just a couple more weeks of lazy.’

Between now and the start of school is a lot for parents. New shoes, haircuts, doctor appointments, school supply shopping, uniform checking, summer reading finishing, and all the scaffolding building that is required to have that school-year structure back in place—meet the teacher parties, back to school nights, after-school activity sign-ups which is also known as The Places All Your Checks Go To since it seems activity sign-ups are some of the last things on earth where actual checks are required, and carpool schedule-curating. Whether I’m ready for back to school or not, it’s here and I’ll complain about parts of it and rejoice in parts of it and pray for all the teachers I know and love.

May your chances for bathroom breaks be plentiful and the number of stomach virus cases that don’t make it to the bathroom be minimal.

May the effects of summertime overexposure to Fortnite and underexposure to math facts be short-lived.

May you have more loving-loafer parents just trying their best, than the ‘Not my kid!’, fix-everything-for-them parents. And may you only believe half of what our kids say about us.

May you each have one student that’s really good at telling jokes, one that’s really good at following instructions, one that’s really good at including others, one that really needs including, one that makes you try something new to reach them, one that reaches for you in a new way, one that makes you excited to teach them, one that makes you remember why you do it.

May you learn almost as much as you teach and laugh with them more than you worry for them. And may you feel valued and loved by us all.

Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.

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