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How long has it been since you had to hand in an assignment for a course?  A decade, perhaps?  Maybe more?  It has been just over 10 years for me.  I remember thinking, at the time, that I would never be a student again; that this was the end of higher education for me; that I had finally reached the pinnacle of my education.  I have 2 bachelor degrees and a diploma hanging on my wall. (Actually they are collecting dust in a box in the attic, but I digress).  What more could I ever need?  I am more specialized than necessary.  But now I see that I was wrong.  I was so young then, ten years ago, in my early my thirties.  How could I have known what lay ahead for me?

I know that my job as a Kindergarten teacher is wildly important and, on a daily basis, I can see the results of my efforts as students grow and become more independent.  I hear from amazed parents who can’t believe the learning that takes place in my classroom.  Yet, occasionally, I catch myself thinking that there has to be more to my career than this.  I have tried to imagine what else I could do, yet I find that I am too specialized to do anything else.  How could I transfer these skills?  Sometimes I put the nagging voices out of my mind and I simply enjoy the abundant life of endless possibilities that my job provides.  Why change anything when you have everything?

Yet I have settled onto the idea of passing on these skills to the young, new teachers who are coming up the ranks.  A faculty advisor with a department of education?  An instructor at the college or university level?  Yes, that is my path.  But in choosing this path, I determine that I will need to go back to school again.  Both SFU and UBC recommend that you have a master degree in education to take on this role.  So, here I am, having hit the ‘submit application’ button on the UBC website.  What have I done?

It is report card day.  I handed out the first report cards that this set of Kindergarten children has ever received.  I made no new discoveries about these children.  It was simply a record of what I had observed as a teacher over the first three months of school.  Nothing I wrote would be shocking news to any parent.  They, of course, know their children far better than me.

So I was a bit surprised when I was called for a phone call 15 minutes after dismissal.  When I walked into the office, I joked that it must me a report card complaint.  The secretary looked at me seriously and said ‘Yes, it is.’  I took a deep breath and answered the call with a sing-song, “Hi.  Martha speaking!”

Blasted.  That’s what I would call it.  This parent blasted me from word one.  She was angry and she was in reaction mode.  I knew that she couldn’t have had time to read the whole paper, but she had been quick to make the call in the heat of her rage.

As it turned out, it was simply a misunderstanding and it was easily corrected with my sunshine-and-smiley-face explanation.  I heard her out, stated my points, let her rant a while longer, restated my points and heard her out again.  By the end, she was eating out of my hand, apologizing for making a big deal out of nothing.  We said good-bye as if we were the best of friends and the event was over.

Except it is not over.  Now I’m pissed.

I spend my life creating fun, enriching activities for these children who I truly love.  I share in their victories and let them know how much I believe in them.  I spend time each day writing and answering parent emails and trying really hard to keep the communication link open between me and the parents.  I spend hours writing these frickin’ reports, agonizing over the wording, trying to come up with the most gentle way to say something difficult.

And yet here is a parent who is so quick to forget all that I have done for her and her child.  It amazes me how quickly she was able to forget the good things that have happened so far this year.  How quickly I went from capable and caring to evil doer in her eyes.  She showed me no respect by going into a rant.  Now I have her flagged as a ‘person of concern’.  I will forever be wary of her.

It takes so long to build up a relationship of trust and caring – yet it can all come to a halt in the course of one phone call.  My promise to myself today is to sleep on a concern for at least a day before I light into someone and place blame.  Some of these bridges cannot be rebuilt.

What happened?  This weekend, I went from tees and tanks to down jacket and toque.  There was no gentle introduction to Autumn.  It was abrupt , early and unwanted.

I am desperately trying to cling onto these last days of my glorious summer break.  Trying to hold off the nightmares and stresses of what I have to do before the dreaded day following Labour Day arrives.  The quick change in the weather has been the loudest wake-up call yet.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my job.  I already love all 44 of those little people whom I have barely even met.  I know that they may be trying to learn my name or to spell their own name in order to impress me on day #1.  Some of them may be terrified by the thought of starting school.  Most will be oblivious to what ‘back to school’ means.  And all of them have no idea that they are embarking on a  13+ year commitment to education.  I am starting to feel the pressure of making sure that they love every minute of it.  It’s no wonder that I wake up these days with my mind churning.

Do you remember your first day of Kindergarten?  I don’t.  But I do remember snippets from that year and most of those are memories of feeling inadequate or not getting to do what I wanted.  Sounds typical of a 4 year old mindset, don’t you think?

I may be grown up and I may be the one in charge of all these tender souls, but I still feel the same as my childhood self.  During these final 6 days of Summer, I feel inadequate and I’m bummed that soon I won’t get to do what I want.

The Happy Wanderer

My Paths on Strava

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