Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The (Big) Little Things

Every morning when I drop Ethan off for school, we have the same routine.

We've come a long way from the first days of school, when I would walk him through the front doors and deliver him to a paraprofessional (he no longer needs). After a few months I'd walk him halfway to the school's entrance, then just part of the way, and now we've graduated to me just pulling the car over, sending love and goodbyes, and watching him race on his own to get inside.

For the past month or so, Mrs. O. has been out there on the sidewalk greeting the drop-off kids each morning. Mrs. O. knows Ethan well; she's another paraprofessional who was there back at the other school from the first day Ethan came through the doors as a three-year-old.

Every morning, she holds out her arm so Ethan can slap her a high-five as he runs by. Every day, he waits for it. Every day, when he sees her there, the grin widens across his face. She's always ready for him, with a smile and a comment I can't hear from the distance.

I know she knows. I know she knows this kind of routine, this friendly ritual, is exactly what a kid like Ethan needs to start his day.

His own classroom teacher, Mrs. B., came trudging through the rain last week to watch Ethan's t-ball game. I'm not quite sure why they were playing in the deluge, but the kids were having a blast. Mrs. B. stood under her umbrella and cheered on Ethan and another boy from his class. He became simultaneously shy and happy when he saw her. In the car as we attempted to dry out and lick ice cream cones he coyly announced how glad he was that his teacher had come to see him.

Last week Ethan was looking at some of the ribbons Anna has won and was lamenting he didn't have one. I'd told him he'd win a ribbon at some point, but that didn't cheer him up much.

The very next afternoon after school Ethan came running up to me with a trophy in his hands. "Look what I have!" he exclaimed, bursting with excitement. Apparently his gym teacher, Mr. C., has a special trophy he "customizes" for kids to take home for a few days if they've really impressed him during class. Ethan's basketball obsession has paid off -- the way he tells it, he threw a ball over the back of the basketball backboard and got it in, leaving his teacher stunned.

As Ethan sat in the back, kissing his trophy, bursting with pride, I wished I could have taken his teachers and enveloped them in a bear hug.

For a moment, I remembered my own favorite teacher memory. Summer after fifth grade. I was moving away, and my friend held a going-away pool party. The festivities were just getting started when I saw her. My teacher, my favorite teacher ever (and still to this day), Mrs. Paul, the one who inspired me in both writing and music, had come. She came to a party for me. During the summer, when she didn't have to. Every time I think of the moment, I still smile.

Sometimes they may have no idea. Teachers may not realize the big impact they are making with the smallest (or sometimes not so small) gesture. This year they have made my little boy want to jump out of the car and run into school. They haven't heaped on false praise, yet have done their unique part to help him see that he is special, and cared for during the six or so hours he is there.

With every high-five and makeshift trophy, they are making precious memories. And so, to each one, I say, with all my heart, thank you.

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