Archive for Monday, May 9, 2011


River City Jules: Teachers and laundry lessons

May 9, 2011


Teachers, Teacher Appreciation Week might be over, but please know, especially as we face the imminent return of our children to our homes for the summer, our gratitude for your time and talent lives on the other 51 weeks of the year.

From the preschool teachers who confidently remove crying 3-year-olds from our calves as we head home to shower alone for the first time since bringing them home from the hospital to the college professors who confidently remove crying parents from their children as they head to their dorm rooms to eat dinner with their elbows on the table for the first time since coming home from the hospital, you are valued.

Our family has been blessed with teachers who lovingly welcome our children back to the classroom day after day, regardless of how anatomically correct their free time drawings might be, and teachers who have never once made me feel like a failure for the tardiness of every single permission slip ever sent home.

We have had teachers who have already played tremendous roles in shaping the minds of our future attorney, our future veterinarian, our future U.S. Air Force pilot (or snow-shoveler, jury is still out) and whatever our Caroline eventually makes of herself.

Today, however, I tip my hat to Ellie’s teacher, Mrs. C. Mrs. C has not taught my daughter anything related to quadratic equations, the proper notation of footnotes or the history of Libya. But Mrs. C has, like all of her teachers, provided my daughter with a skill set I have been unable to provide myself.

Thanks to Mrs. C and the required Introduction to Work and Family course for eighth-graders, specifically her most recent school project, Ellie can now do laundry.

I cannot fully and adequately express the joy I felt when Ellie came home with an assignment that required — REQUIRED — her to put in four hours of domestic labor above and beyond what she already does (generally about 75 percent of what is asked). Tasked with cleaning the bathroom, organizing her closet and vacuuming with the attachments, Ellie proved herself useful to our household, particularly as the project culminated in the sorting, washing, drying and folding of roughly 54 cubic feet of dirty laundry.

This seemingly simple homework assignment unlocked for my daughter the mystery of how clothes move from a disheveled state in the hamper to neatly folded stacks on one’s bed, heretofore referred to as Julie’s Second Law of Transubstantiation (the first involves the oven). Moreover, this assignment also proved that I am not the only person capable of setting this law into motion.

So to anyone who claims kids do not learn anything useful in school, I assure you this is most untrue. For what good is it to educate our children in a way that allows them to one day contribute forward progress to society, whether it be by curing disease or orchestrating lasting peace in the Middle East if, at the end of the week, our children are still bringing their laundry home to their mothers?

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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