I knew my sweet little Max would have a hard time transitioning into a full-time student his kindergarten year. He was the kind of kid who loved arts and crafts, sports and games. Sitting still and being quiet was not his thing. Being told he was doing something wrong hurt his feelings, which in turn made him angry. The entire summer before school started I worried.
The school year started and I signed up to be the room mom hoping my constant presence in the classroom would help him. I tried everything I knew how to do to help him like school. I read all the books. I read all the blogs. I asked advice from my friends. Nothing seemed to help.
A typical day in the life of kindergarten Max went something like this:
I would try to get him dressed for school, but he would hide under his bed, just out of my reach. I would beg and plead and bribe him to get dressed. I would go to the kitchen to get his backpack and down the stairs Max would come with his pajamas back on. Some days he said he hated school and didn’t want to go. Somedays he pretended he was sick. Everyday was a battle.
He came home from school crying at least once a week saying he had had a bad day. Sometimes I got calls from his teacher saying the same thing.
He had a great teacher. I really liked her and spent so much time in the classroom, we became good friends. Even still, Max struggled.
Summer came and it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off both of our shoulders. We enjoyed every last drop summer had to offer. In the back of my mind was the nagging fear of what first grade had in store for us.
The first time we met Mrs. Reiber, was a week before Max started first grade. Max and I went in for a reading assessment…. he cried the entire way there. She is just one of those people who emulates warmth and kindness. He visibly calmed in her presence. I liked her immediately.
The first day of school came and Max was pretty hesitant to go, but we had no major problems. After school he said his day was “fine”. The next morning he was dressed and ready for school before breakfast. He never again cried before school. He never again said he hated school.
He came home everyday saying his day had been “really good”. He always told me the funny things Mrs. Reiber did. He told me the books she read to him. One day he came home visibly beaming because Mrs. Reiber had told him that he was a good reader. He was always drawing her pictures or making her cards. Getting homework done was no longer a fight. He wanted to do his homework and he wanted to do it well, so Mrs Reiber would be proud of him.
At Thanksgiving that year, we went around the table saying things we were thankful for and Max’s response was his teacher. I was thankful for her too. So thankful.
He grew leaps and bounds his first grade year. He was reading at grade level. He was happier. He loved school. He was excited to learn. He was everything I had tried so hard to help him become.
On the last day of school Max was devastated he wouldn’t get to have Mrs. Reiber as a teacher anymore. He talked about her all summer. That was the summer he started telling me he wanted to be a teacher when he grows up.
Two years later, Alexa is now in Mrs. Reibers class. Same story, different kid. She adores her teacher. She wants to cut her bangs like Mrs Reiber’s . She reads to me at night and holds the book the way Mrs Reiber holds books. Everyday, the first thing out of her mouth is “Mrs Reiber thinks this…” or “Mrs. Reiber does that…”. She always wears her black shoes because Mrs Reiber said they were cute. One night, I was tucking Alexa into bed and she said ” I love you Mom, but I love Mrs. Reiber too”.
So why would I not like this Mother Teresa of a teacher? Because saying I like her seems too inadequate of a statement for someone who has had such a deep impact on my children. I have so much love in my heart for this teacher who taught Max the only thing I have ever truly wanted him to learn… to love school, to love learning and to love himself.
I stand in awe of you. You have had the most important job. You have had the hardest job. You have walked the delicate line of mother, teacher, and friend everyday in your classroom. You have been a nurturer of little spirits. For a year of his life, you were who Max wanted to share his hopes and dreams with. You were the one he looked up to everyday. Thank you for your dedication, your passion, your love and your stability. You have inspired thousands over the course of your career. Enjoy your retirement!!