Friday, June 18, 2010

Teaching Kids to Care: Ms. Marissa

I send my boys to a public school, PS107 in Park Slope, that is a little bit of heaven in the big bad city. It is filled with a faculty like Ms. Marissa, a princess for the day (it's her birthday tomorrow!) and a princess the whole year through in my eyes because she looks out amazingly well for my little Oscar.

Ms. Marissa got her gold star today for getting through the full hard year of teaching five- and-six-year-olds with great patience. She, like the rest of the 107 team, while imperfect as the rest of us, love each and every one of the children in their midst with all their heart, they care about them immensely and wish for them the best. That is no small thing.

When I worry for a moment, especially at the beginning of the year, if I am doing the absolute best thing for my children by sending them to this particular school, if they are learning the most they can learn, getting the most out of the school environment that they can, becoming the greatest people they have the potential to be, I start making a list of the problems, my concerns. And then, every year, I remember: this is a phenomenal community of the kind you cannot pay enough for. The reason why? The people that surround my boys, the people I entrust them to for many hours a day, care, they really, truly care. I can call many of them on their cell phones in a bind and they are always willing to help.

Such recognition relaxes me. This is what I most hope my kids can learn in their lives. More than math or science or nutrition, things I or the Internet could fairly easily teach them, I rely on a school to teach them about the necessary giving and receiving, the sharing and listening and compromising that is required in relating to other people, to the world.

If and when I have suggestions for changes, I know I cannot just complain, I have to act, I have to engage in the conversation with teachers and faculty about the problem and I have to be willing to take on whatever extra work fixing said problem requires, to figure if it can realistically be fixed, if ever and how. Of course, I often decide I do not have the time or energy to fix things as I would ideally see fit to. Or I realize that I am sending my children out into the world and, once there, I can only hope they take the lessons they learn at home and apply them in those places outside my control, that they come home and start a conversation with me if what they are told outside seems to grossly differ from what my husband and I have tried to impart.

So I let a lot go. I often I bite my tongue and realize that we live in a world full of imperfections and so will our children. The problems that French philosopher Montaigne outlined in the 1800s are ones we still grapple with today so I have no illusions that change is easy.

But I try, with my children and with their teachers both, with myself, to cheer successes, to see the glass half full. It is hard, granted, but necessary. This, I feel, is the best way to ensure the overall well-being of my family and my community. Look, in the end, it is selfish: if I support them, the teachers, inevitably, support my children, they look out for them in a way they might not if I were not on their side. That, I think, is a fact of human nature. Thank you Ms. Marissa for looking out for Oscar! I know it's not always easy...believe me, I know.

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