All my Children
by Sandy Preston
I was thinking about all my children today -- not the soap opera, but the 80-something children who have called my classroom home for some portion of the past four years.
It struck me at recess this afternoon. I was sitting at my desk separating book order flyers, surrounded by four or five of my second-graders, always curious to see what the teacher is doing. I rapidly flipped through the pages, sliding each copy free from the stack of others to the amazement of the little ones. "Wow! Mrs. Preston! You're fast!" they say. (Second-graders are so easily fascinated. Being around them is a huge ego boost!) Just as I beamed at their praise, a sudden "rrrrrrrrr-ip" emerged from the stack.
"Oops!" I say, covering my mouth with my hand. I grin slightly and add the slightly torn form to the stack. "Don't tell anyone I did that!" I tell them. A few moments later, another "rrrrrrr-ip" and Julia's mouth gapes open at me, sending the whole lot of them into a giggling frenzy. "We won't tell!" they whisper, immediately followed by, "Hey! Courtney! Guess what Mrs. Preston did!"
"Shhhhhhh!" I say, finger to my lips. More giggles ensue.
These are children who could be off playing somewhere with their precious little recess time, but they have chosen to spend some time with me, their teacher. It makes me think of the million other careers I could have chosen, many of which would have paid more (at least in dollars) -- but I have chosen to spend my time with them as well. And in many ways, that's the best-paying job there is!
As recess winds down and I ring the bell to clean up, Julia comes to my desk with a piece of paper and, with a sneaky grin, she tears it ever so slightly and looks at me knowingly, finger to her lips.
Silly little moments like these make us a family. Bethany passes me on her way to get in line and waves, "Hi, Mrs.!"
"How ya' doing, B?" I ask her. (It's a little inside joke we have about Junie B. Jones.)
Bryan, affectionately known as Johnny B. Jones, stops to tie his perpetually untied shoe and lower his perpetually raised pant leg, much to the delight of his classmates, who nicknamed him after their favorite disheveled kindergartner from Barbara Park's books. We've all got a theory that Bryan unties his shoes when no one is looking for the added attention it garners him.
As I head to the front of the line, I ask Dylan how his little brother's new adventures in walking are coming along. We've been following his progress since he first started to scoot himself around months ago.
As I turn off the lights and lead my group out into the hallway, my kids are still talking about the exotic cuisine (octopus!) Paige brought for us to sample last week, sent from family in her native Hawaii -- who was brave enough to try it, who wasn't (Mrs. Preston!). As soon as their feet hit the hallway tile, they are quiet. They know we're in the hallway. We've done this hundreds of times already. Manners in the hallway are expected like manners at home are expected.
My husband and I don't have children of our own yet. When people ask me if I have children, I usually say, "no" because I haven't gone through labor and delivered any babies personally. But, if teaching is a labor of love, then I can say that it's delivered me almost 80 children, with many more to come.
This year's "family" will be difficult to let go. They all are. Seeing them leave my nest in the corner of Brockway Elementary gives me a slight glimpse into what it must be like to be a parent. Seeing them grow and succeed does, too.