The last time I wrote here, Sean and I were coming to the end of his of first grade year of school. I say “Sean and I” because, really, it was not just his first grade – it occupied a large share of my time and my thinking and my emotional space too. It was my first grade experience by proxy; a much needed do-over of sorts for me.
It seemed to me that first grade would be a pivotal point in Sean’s academic career. In that first school year, he would either decide school was a good thing or not a good thing, and it would have everything to do with his teacher.
I had a sour, joyless and surly nun for first grade named Sister Edwina. I decided early on in that first grade year that school was an exercise in misery. That’s a rotten way for a six-year-old to spend seven hours of a day, hating it. Thereafter, I pretty much hated school and I was a cruddy student with a cruddy attitude and the grades to prove it. All that changed when I was 30 and became a professional student, but I don’t want that for Sean.
For Sean, I wanted a teacher who would make him toe the line in terms of behavior, as we do at home. I wanted a teacher who would appreciate his creativity. I wanted a teacher who would not allow him to get away with doing the least, as he is wont to do. I wanted a teacher who wanted to be a teacher, whose nature it was to be happy. And, as important as anything else, I wanted a teacher who would not make me feel like “that mom” or a big fat bother any time I had a question or an issue.
We got the teacher for which we prayed. She was Sean’s advocate, and for me, she was an encourager and adviser and even a friend. It was a terrific first grade year that came and went in a flurry of papers and projects and lunches and parties and jackets lost and found.
And now, here we are at the top of the second grade school year and I’m still having trouble saying second grade instead of first grade and Ms. W. instead of Ms. S. And by the grace of God and the awesome ladies who run the school, Sean was assigned a second grade teacher who is picking up right where the first grade teacher left off and we are off and running on our way to another exciting write-it-all-down-in-your-diary kind of school year.
One of my favorite quotes is that education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire, and thus far, all of Sean’s teachers have been pyromaniacs. May it ever be so. I’m sure it won’t ever be so, but may it ever be so at least until his learning spirit can’t be easily broken.
The other morning, Sean got up and got dressed for school and came to the breakfast bar for the most important meal of the day. I asked him if he had had any dreams. He said he knows that he has dreams, but that he never remembers them.
I stood on the other side of the bar wringing a dish towel in my hands for no reason and watched him eat his toast. I noticed the jelly marking the corners of his mouth and how he is still unable to resist the urge to use his shirt for a napkin. In the haze of a morning-minded fog, I saw not a long-legged soccer-playing second-grader, but my kindergartner, the one I could still carry on my hip, the one I picked up from school at 1pm and took with me to the grocery store in the afternoon.
“As soon as I open my eyes,” he said, “the dreams rush out of my mind, like the tide, and I can’t catch them.”
I loved how he said that, loved the imagery.
I thought about how that is exactly how it is with each passing school year – dream like and slow motion and mixed up when you’re in the middle of it, and then before you know it, it rushes away and you can’t hold onto it. And when you look back, even from a short distance, you don’t really remember it.
You just know it was.