As many of you know, I volunteer at the school my ten-year-old daughter attends. She is now in 5th grade and has been at this particular school since kindergarten. Over the years, both my daughter and I have been blessed with some outstanding teachers. Each one of them, so different, yet all sharing the same passion for teaching.
When my daughter entered the second grade, this is when I became active in the PTA. My daughter’s second-grade teacher, just like the ones prior, was simply amazing. I refer to her as the “Snow White” of teachers. Any parent would be lucky to have this teacher teach their student.
When my daughter was ready to enter 3rd grade. I had done my research. Although I did not personally know him, I knew what teacher I wanted for my daughter. He has a strong personality and does not coddle the students. He is a veteran teacher and I just knew, he was the one. So I did what I do best and fought hard for my daughter to have him for 3rd grade. I asked around, I did Google searches, I watched from a safe distance. Although I had never been formally introduced to him, never did I have any doubt my daughter belonged in his class. And that is exactly what happened.
As my daughter enjoyed her year in 3rd grade, I slowly began working in the classroom as needed. By the time my daughter entered 4th grade, I was a Room Mom for her former 3rd grader. Now, with my daughter in 5th grade, this guy cannot get rid of me. I have found where my passion lies. Volunteering for a special group of 3rd graders who are pretty lucky to have this particular teacher.
Over the last two years, I have seen it all. I have seen this teacher go above and beyond for his “kids.” I have seen him teach the unteachable. I have seen his excitement when one of his “kids” understands a new math lesson. I have seen him make his class stand up and sit right back down until they get the concept of “voices are off.” I have seen 3rd graders who unfortunately do not have the best of a home life tell him “Why are you even a teacher, you suck!” I have seen him teach a class of twenty plus students while literally standing in between two students who are ready to “throw down.” I have seen him having the physically take a student out of the class because this student could potentially be a danger to the rest of the class, and in the process, this teacher gets kicked or scratched. I am not kidding you when I say I have seen it all.
Yet, just when I think I have seen it all, there is always more to see.
Yesterday afternoon, as the school day was coming to a close, I had my oldest daughter in his class. Sometimes this happens if I am killing time or there is more work to do. My daughter, Gracie, who has autism, knows this teacher. He is one of the very few where she feels comfortable enough to sit in his class. As I am working on a project with three other students, the teacher wrote a long subtraction problem on the whiteboard for the rest of the class to complete. This was a hard one, and I can only assume he came up with this particular problem to “kill some time.” As I am watching over the three students who are helping me with a project, I notice Gracie. She is sitting at the table, the same table I sit at during the day, and she is focussed on the teacher and the whiteboard. I then notice Gracie takes a pen and writes something on her hand. I am still preoccupied with the three students I am working with. I make a mental note to ask Gracie what it is she is writing on her hand when there was a stack of notebook paper right in front of her. I know some of you may not understand this, and some of you will totally get it, but her writing on her hand is an autism thing.
Twenty minutes later when the class leaves for the day and this teacher makes sure to shake the hand of each of his twenty plus students, I go to Gracie and ask her “Sooooo, what is on your hand?” Well, she wrote the math problem down…on her hand. The same math problem that the teacher wrote on the whiteboard, she wrote it on her hand. “What’s the big deal?” you may say? I will tell you. In a room full of chaos. In a room full of twenty plus students, each one of them on different tasks, Gracie was focussed enough to write the problem down. Not because she had to, but because she wanted to. She wanted to because she was focussed. Gracie has a comfort level with this particular teacher where she is able to tune out what she wants and focus when need be, and although Gracie gets much credit for this, so does the teacher. Yet the beauty of it all, he had no idea that he had her attention. He had her attention because he is an excellent teacher.
Now if that was not enough, now is the time to pay attention. I know this is a long one, and I apologize. Just stick with me.
Today in class, another teacher came in to talk to the 3rd graders about bullying. Bullying in 3rd grade?!?! Yet, sadly, this is what is happening. The 3rd-grade teacher and I are sitting back, listening to the speaker tell past stories of his experiences. At some point, this class filled out a survey on their thoughts and fears regarding bullying. It is sad, it is depressing and it needs to change and it needs to change now. The speaker who was leading the discussion about bullying gave us the sad fact that in that class alone, a good portion of the students is afraid to come to school because of bullying. Again, this is 3rd grade.
I am sitting there listening to the speaker. I am listening and feeling the pain, the sadness, the frustration, and anger. Then, one of the most powerful moments I have seen since I have been at the school happened. The 3rd-grade teacher politely interrupts the speaker. He gets up and points to six of his kids. “You, you, you-you-you and you, all of you stand up.” All six students stand up. “This is how many of you, just in my class alone, are afraid to come to school. This is unacceptable, we have a problem and we need to fix it and we need to fix it now.”
At this point, I had to dig my fingernails into my hand just so I would not cry. What an emotional yet cringe-worthy scene. To see six little 3rd graders who do not even feel safe at school. I scanned the class. Trying to gauge the reactions of the students. A very sad thought crossed my mind. What are the odds of one of these little 3rd graders growing up and being the victim of domestic violence? An even more depressing thought, what are the odds of one of these little 3rd graders growing up and committing domestic violence? It’s a depressing thought, however, this teacher is determined for his class at the very least to not be a statistic, because he cares, because he knows when you know better you do better. This teacher is a class act, and over the years has become more than a teacher to me, he has become a friend.
Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis (that would be all four of you) you know Christin. Christin and I share a sixteen-year friendship. We have seen each other at our worst, we have seen each other at our best. Christin lost a family member yesterday to suicide. Christin carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. More so now than ever. We will see her through this because, in times of crisis, we look for the helpers.
Now, because Christin knows everything that goes on in my daily life (as I do hers) Christin and the 3rd-grade teacher somehow conspired against me.
A few weeks ago when our local Seattle Seahawks played my beloved NY GIANTS these two decided to take advantage of my weakness for my team and made a bet with me.
I will not bore you with the details. All you need to know is I lost. So here I am trying to make good on my bet. The bet was I would have to write a blog singing the praises of the 3rd-grade teacher and Christin while proclaiming my love for the Seahawks.
Easiest bet ever.
You see, I do not have to sing their praises because their actions speak for themselves. Spend thirty minutes in the classroom of this 3rd-grade teacher. Have a phone conversation with Christin while she is working on homework, cooking dinner, and being a mom to her children. Be a fly on the wall when I am at a weak moment, venting to either of them about my own inadequacies, and you will see what I already know. I do not need to sing their praises because if you are lucky enough to know them, then you already know what I know. These are good people, and that is what this world needs more good people……more helpers.
As far as the Seahawks go. Although they are not my number one team, they are a close second. I have been in Washington state for seventeen years. I believe Russell Wilson does amazing work at Seattle Children’s Hospital. A hospital that Gracie has been to by the way. Currently, I believe in the Seahawks more than I do my own team…..who happens to have the second worse record in the NFL this season.
I believe in good.
I believe in this 3rd-grade class, I believe in the teacher, I believe in Christin and I believe in the Seahawks.
I believe in looking for the helpers in times of crisis…..but most of all, I believe in being a good person, because that is who I learn from.
I am a better person because of them.
And I am a better football fan because the Seahawks force me to show loyalty in times of crisis.