I cried every day at kindergarten drop-off. I have no recollection of this, but my parents remind me of it from time to time. I’m not sure why I cried, but I did. Every. Single. Day.
My kindergarten teacher was an Olympic athlete … in the long jump. Long jumpers are tall … really tall. Kindergarteners are short … I am shorter than most. My kindergarten teacher ran with Wilma Rudolph, the famed Olympian. Mrs. Annie Earthman was a beautiful, African-American woman who completely terrified me. I remember her earrings. The first one was a large hoop. The second was a smaller hoop. The third was a little smaller hoop. The fourth was an even smaller hoop. And they continued up her ears. I remember her hands. They would grip my small, frightened hands and cover them completely. I remember she called me by my real name … Rebecca.
I also remember that Mrs. Earthman saw something in me, a frightened, shy, reserved, little girl. There is a familiar story told in our family of when I was chosen to be Little Bo Peep in the school play. This involved me getting in front of the school and saying a few lines. My parents told Mrs. Earthman I could never do it. It was just too much. Mrs. Earthman told them her little “dahling” would do it. Just wait.
This is me as Little Bo Peep. And you know what? I did it. I said those lines in front of the entire school.
It’s not that my parents didn’t believe in me. They were (and have always been) my biggest supporters. I think more than anything they knew me and wanted to protect me. Why put me through something like that if it wasn't absolutely necessary?
My daughter’s kindergarten teacher contacted me last week. She wants her to speak at a little thing at their school tomorrow night. My mind quickly drifted back to the Little Bo Peep days. Honestly, my first thought was, “I’m not sure she’s the best choice. She’s timid and gets very nervous.” And then I reminded myself that my daughter’s teacher knows her, too. She knows her in a different setting than me. And she sees something I might not see just yet.
That’s what I love about great teachers. They see things in our children that we, as parents, may not see. They challenge our kids to do more, take chances, and even fail without repercussion. They give our children confidence in a way that we might not be able to give as parents.
If you are a teacher, thank you. Thank you for seeing the best in our children. Some of them are tough. I get it. But, thank you for seeking the good in everyone. Thank you for pushing our children to take steps they didn’t know they could take. Thank you for giving your time, your heart, and your soul to make our children the best they can be.
Mrs. Earthman, thank you for believing in me. A few years ago I got up in front of a group of about 2,000 to promote an upcoming collegiate event. I did it with confidence, a little anxiety, and a lot of prayer. That Little Bo Peep has come a long way. And, I have you, and countless other teachers in my life, to thank for it.