River City Jules: Teacher appreciation

Just as Alice Cooper has promised for decades, school is nearly out for summer.

For 10 blessed weeks, there will be no hurried mornings, no homework-laden afternoons and no Sunday night dread.

As much as my kids look forward to the lazier days of summer, the brave and dedicated souls who answered the call to teach said children have got to be even more giddy with excitement as the final bell draws near.

Every once in a while, I volunteer in one of my kids’ classrooms or accompany a field trip to remind myself how immensely unqualified I am to teach. (I highly recommend this to all parents. You think helping your own kid with math is hard? Try helping 24 of them!)

In spite if my lack of training, a friend asked me this past school year to cover for a local preschool teacher while she attended a brief staff meeting.

It had been several years since I last had a preschooler at home, but my sister has one she shares on occasion. There are few people who can bring such instant joy to my day like my four-year-old, Batman-mask-wearing nephew, Charlie, can.

The opportunity to spend 20 minutes with a classroom full of happy creatures like him was enough to get me to trade in my yoga pants and T-shirt for a skirt and blouse for an afternoon.

I waited eagerly in the music room for my class to arrive. And arrive they did, just as pudgy-armed and bright-eyed as I remembered preschoolers being.

They willingly and upon my first request sat in their chairs in an orderly fashion. The lesson plan called for a movie, Elmo in the classic tale of Peter and the Wolf, pretty much stretching me to the limit of my teaching abilities.

I introduced myself to the kids, dimmed the lights and started the show, taking a seat off to the side.

Just as the opening credits rolled, a hand went up into the air. I called upon its owner, a precious little white-blond boy.

“Is there going to be a real wolf?” he asked with some concern.

“No,” I assured him, “It’s just pretend. Nothing to worry about.” This seemed to satisfy him, so I kept to myself my opinions about Cujo, Jaws and SpongeBob.

But his hand soon went up again.

Not wanting to disturb the others watching the show, I announced, “If you have any questions, come to me and ask quietly.”

Five kids suddenly appeared at my feet, starting with the hand-raiser.

“Did you know Telly and Elmo are friends?” asked my new friend.

“I have a baby sister,” said the girl behind him.

The next two forgot their questions and sat back down to remember them, but the last little girl I will never forget.

“Um, I love you,” she whispered, melting my heart.

Everyone should have that kind of appreciation at work, but I can think of few who deserve it more than teachers.