Dear Kindergarten Teacher,
It's almost Thanksgiving, and I want to thank you.
For an entire year, I worried about sending my baby to kindergarten. Elementary school is the foundation for a lifetime of learning, and I want to lay the best possible foundation. I toured private and public schools, scouring Denver for a school that would give her the best possible start.
My daughter is an August baby, which makes her the youngest in her class. One of those kids with a birthday that a parent considers automatically holding back because many of her classmates will be a full year older than her. On top of being young, she is shy and a rule follower. I worried she might vanish in a room of 26 kids, how could she not?
I worried, on the spectrum of worry mine was extreme, but every parent worries sending their babies to kindergarten. For many of us, kindergarten is the first step to letting them go.
The first day of school we dropped our children at the school "Kiss and Go." I placed my heart in a single-file line with a giant backpack strapped to her shoulders. She did not cry. She stood in an ocean of 5-year-olds, tears flooding many faces around her. She may have been a little scared, but I was terrified.
I rushed by you. I gasped, "I forgot to tell her about the confusing flush in the bathrooms."
"Don't worry, we take them to the bathroom," you smiled, unsurprised by my toilet gibberish.
I climbed into my minivan and cried. I cried because for the first time, my daughter would be gone all day. I cried because I didn't know if I made the right decision to send her to this school or to kindergarten. I cried because I didn't know if she would find a friend. I cried because I didn't want her to be lost.
"Please don't let her be lost," I prayed aloud to myself. I'm not religious, but I offered up this prayer. "Please let my baby be OK."
You are the best kind of teacher.
You know my daughter's name.
You know the names of her two siblings and probably our dogs.
You know she loves hyenas and foxes.
You understood that initially, she felt too anxious to walk to the bathroom on her own, so an adult always went with her. Now she confidently walks down the hall and goes to the restroom by herself.
You know she draws with meticulous detail, spending endless time on art projects, and then returns during free time to add even more to her portraits.
You teach her about sentences, periods and question marks. At home, she draws pictures and labels them, sounding out each syllable of each word. A blanket of sentences and drawings cover our tables and floors.
You don't worry about her pencil grip, because it doesn't slow her writing down.
You describe her confidently raising her hand in class.
You watch her laugh with her friends. One day, she goofed around with friends during work time and you didn't punish her. It made you smile to see her developing social confidence.
You radiate positive energy. "Friends," you call to the classroom, and I smile, because like the children, I feel the warmth of your words. We all want to be one of your friends.
You have little children of your own, yet every day, you teach our children with seemingly endless patience.
You respond immediately to an email about a difficult day. I hear genuine sadness in your voice when I say that my daughter felt she had no one to play with at recess. You assure me that you will redirect her to friends who will want her to join in.
You have rock star status in our house.
"It is so funny that you refer to her as Ms. Brooke," my husband laughs.
"I know, but she is amazing," I say, "in a league of her own."
You are a dedicated kindergarten teacher. I know lots of teachers avoid kindergarten like the plague. Kindergarten is hard, the kids need a lot of help and the parents need a lot of handholding too.
You love kindergarteners. You open my daughter's writing journal and point at her sentences, "Isn't it amazing how much she has to say?" Endless words smooshed together fill the pages of her notebook, words only a parent or a kindergarten teacher can understand. "We are obviously working on spaces," you smile.
You even have great style, sitting in the car drop off line, I think, hmm, I need to wear my jean jacket with colored pants.
You are a gift to kindergarteners.
"I love your teacher," I say, driving my girls to the dentist office. "She is amazing."
"You know what the best thing about my teacher is?" My 5-year-old asks from her car seat behind me. "The best thing about my teacher is she always hears us, no matter what."
Happy tears spring to my eyes. You hear her and see her. I have been thinking about this a lot lately -- seeing people. I think to truly see people may be one of the greatest gifts of all.
"Except when we're telling secrets," my daughter laughs.
You eased my worries.
Last year, I would have paid an exorbitant amount of money to buy the best kindergarten experience for my daughter.
I hit the teacher jackpot. Every day, you give 26 kids the best educational start.
This year, problems may arise. There will be days when my girl may not have someone to play with at recess, but she will be OK.
I worried she would be lost. She is the opposite of lost.
You help her find herself every day.
You make a difference.