This is one of my personal favorite graduation/end of school songs. Not one of the more traditional ones (“School’s Out For Summer”) (“Another Brick In The Wall”.) This one just speaks to me in ways that the other’s do not.
I do not have fond memories of school. School was one of the hardest times in my life, and that is no exaggeration. I had no friends. None. I was the kid who would eat lunch in the bathroom because I had no one to sit with in the lunchroom.
Finding a seat on the bus was pure torture. No one wanted to ever sit with me. There were a few times where I “accidentally” missed the bus (both to and from school) so I would not have to go through the daily ritual of trying to find a seat. Once the bus driver yelled “WE ARE NOT LEAVING UNTIL EVERYONE SITS DOWN!” (and you knew “EVERYONE” was me) a few kids would reluctantly move their backpacks so I could sit down.
I was constantly called “fat.” I did not look like the other kids, I was shy, closed up, and unlike the sea of blond hair blue-eyed gems that took over the school….there was me. I mean now I can say I was a dark-haired beauty who stuck out in the crowd, but back then, people thought I was everything in-between, and nothing that resembled them, and it pretty much sucked.
In the 4th grade I was in the restroom and heard some of my fellow classmates make fun of me, again, calling me fat. I ran out of the restroom crying. My teacher, Mrs. Mayes, took me in her arms and asked what happened. Through tears I told her how I had overheard three of the girls calling me fat in the restroom. Mrs Mayes’ eyes became glossy, a few tears escaped as she quickly wiped them away. She brought the entire class together, and told each and every student that it is unacceptable to name call. Name calling leaves scars that cannot be healed, and if she ever hears of any name calling in her classroom, that will be cause for expulsion.
Now, that incident certainly did not help me make any friends, however,what it did do for me was show me that I had someone in my corner. It showed me that Mrs. Mayes at one point or another in her life understood what I was going through, she understood what I was feeling. For a brief moment I was able to see her pain, the same kind of pain I was feeling. That moment meant the world to me, because my family had no idea how bad school was for me. I was worried if I told them, I would be a disappointment to them.
Just like every story that is ever told, life goes on. I would like to say that the remainder of my school years turned out better, but that would be a lie. They just got worse….worse in ways that if something did not change, I would have ended it all, at the expense of my own life.
Over the last 30 years, I went on to have my own family. My oldest two boys, AJ and Vinnie, thrived in school. They were popular, they had friends, and for a good run, they were making descent grades. I did my part, I showed up to the parent/teacher conferences, I made sure all paperwork was turned in a timely manner, but I refused to join the PTA. I just knew without a doubt that I would have those same judgments placed on me that I did 30 years ago. No thank you.
My girls, Gracie and Sofia. Different but the same. Gracie thrives on routine. She is feisty and choses who she wants to be friends with. She is perfectly content doing her own thing, and really does not care what people think of her. She is kind of my hero.
Sofia is probably most like me, yet she still has many more friends than I ever did.
I pride myself on knowing the signs, I know what to watch out for, I know when I need to jump in if I feel there are issues with bullies, fitting in, feeling accepted, ect.
Just like I did with my sons, I did the same with my daughters. I showed up when I needed to. I made sure all paperwork was turned in, I would bring in school supplies if teachers were running low, but I was not ready to become involved in other ways. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
About three years ago, things took an interesting turn.
Gracie had some issues. She had issues from birth, but at this point, 4th grade, I knew there was something more was going on. “Something” was not quite right with her. It was at this time, I decided to become an active parent volunteer in the school. It was time for me to face my demons head on and fight for my daughter. I needed a place where I could watch her from a safe distance, because at this point the doctors were not listening to me.
Seven months later we had her Autism diagnosis.
Some may call it an eerie coincidence, but I know the “Big Guy Upstairs” had a hand in this. I was actually enjoying being an active parent volunteer, an active PTA member. I enjoyed seeing my girls in school. I found fulfilment in helping out, in running errands, in making cookies and popcorn. I enjoyed the challenges that came with being an active member of the PTA. Before, I knew it I was now the PTA treasurer.
I am now on my second year of PTA President. Something I never ever thought I would do. I did not have it in me, hell, I did not want to have “it” in me. Along with being the PTA President, I am also a “Room Mom.” Now I know these things may not seem like a whole lot to some people, but to me, it means the world.
I have come to adore these kids. Each one of them has taught me in ways that they will never know.
“S”~ A delightfully challenging little boy. Every time Gracie or Sofia came to this class, he would make a special effort to go up to them and say “Hi!” Of course he always got their names backwards, but my girls got a kick out of that. At his core, he is so so kind.
“G” ~ She would always “Tell it like it is.” “Mrs. Pedro, why are you eating cheese, it will make you go poop.” “Mrs. Pedro, I really think you should get rid of your gum if you are going to read us a story.” “Mrs. Pedro, why are you talking to that Mom, she is mean and her son is a jerk!” I have high hopes for this one, she would be an AMAZING counsellor for at risk youth.
“Z” ~ A pretty bad-ass Samoan kid. He would always tell me “I got you Mrs. P!” So So helpful. I could ask him to do anything and he would do it with no complaints.
“K” ~ He came to the school late in the year, and even though I never told the teacher this, I made sure to keep an extra special eye on him. It’s hard coming to a new school so close to the school year ending. I wanted to make sure he adjusted wonderfully. I know the teacher did too, but for me, I had to make sure “K” would not have the same experiences in school that I did. Turns out “K” and “G” became pretty good friends. I am no longer worried.
“L” ~ This kid is a freaking genius. She is going places. She is an ideal student and I will assume a teachers dream. I loved watching her from a safe distance. She took it all in, Harvard, watch out, you need to keep an eye on this one!
“M” ~ Another genius. Let me tell you about her. She whole heartedly had the idea that our school should do a fundraiser to purchase goats for a family in another country. 3rd grade people!!!!! Because of her, our school was able to purchase 7 goats and a flock of chickens for families in need. Pretty amazing, right??And….for some reason, I am lucky enough to see it all firsthand.
Thursday was the last day of school. We only had about two hours before the final bell was rung, and Summer Vacation began. In the classroom I volunteer in, I was able to participate in “What’s the News.” A time where all the kids come together in a circle, they turn to their partner and ask “What is your news?” At the end, the teacher (An amazing 14 year seasoned teacher who has also taught me life lessons along the way.) started talking about “Wonder Woman.” I never knew this, but apparently back in the day when the Wonder Woman comic first came about, a lot of little boys did not want to read it because, well, Wonder Woman is a girl. The teacher went on to say how Wonder Woman is a wonderful role model for little girls….and then, when my defenses were down, gifted me this.
And it gets better, so stick with me.
Backstory……not many people know this about me, but I never ever ever say the word that means “passing gas” and rhymes with “heart.” I never say it, and clearly I never type it. So…..naturally, the class gifted me with this.
A story about Walter the dog, who has a “passing gas problem” and in this particular story, kinda gets the “shit end of the stick” (No pun intended)
Naturally, I had to read the story to the class……BUT, because these kids know me SO SO well, they were there to take over every time that “one word” made an appearance. I would be reading…..and when that word would come up, I would look at them, and they knew, in unison they would shout out the word, that for reasons Dr Phil would have a field day with, these kids said it for me.
It gets better.
At the assembly. Many awards are given out. “Best attendance” “Student Council” “Green Team.” I am standing against the wall, talking to the teacher. We are checking our watch, while listening to the awards being awarded. Only 7 minutes left and then SCHOOL”S OUT FOR SUMMER. Another teacher (who is also on the PTA Board) takes a place on the left side of me. We are talking, we are listening, we are clapping for the awards……the Vice Principal…..
“This award goes to a parent who is here every day. She works hard……..
I notice, “my kids” the kids I volunteer with, they look at me, they point at me……I look at “my” teacher, my “boss”
“Oh dear God No.”
The gym erupts in applause.
I look at my “boss”
“Well go up there!”
I go up there, trying to hold back my tears, because I did not expect this.
She gives me a bouquet of flowers. I give her a hug, and whisper “You have no idea how much this means to me.”
I make my way back….
“PTA helps pay for your field trips.”
A few teachers make eye contact with me, they are smiling…and clapping……the kids, they are all giving me a “high-five.”
I take my place back against the wall, I look at the two teachers who are next to me, “DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS?”
“And you did not tell me?!”
And that was it, I came full circle. I was no longer that little girl in school who had no friends, who was being made fun of, who had no idea what would become of her. I was no longer that little girl who would do whatever it took to not go back to school. I came full circle.
Again, I know this does not sound like much, especially for those of you that are doing pretty well financially, I know some of you may be thinking “Well, volunteering does not pay the bills.” I know this post may come across as somewhat flakey…and that is okay, because what I have learned, success is not defined by monetary value, success is defined by your character.
Teacher ~ I think you should become a teacher.
Me ~ I am too old.
Teacher ~ If you go to school now, you will still be younger than Mrs. B was in her first year of teaching.
And now…..we are talking about a game changer.
Teacher, Para, my options are open….I just want to work with kids. I want to make sure no one has to feel what I felt in school. I want to be their Mrs. Mayes.
Just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.
“You always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
And…….I think I did.
“Here’s a toast
To all those who hear me all too well.”