Friday, September 23, 2011

Bragging Rights

I like Mrs. T, lots.  A few weeks ago, at Back to School Night for Elizabeth's second grade class?  One of the first things Mrs. T said was:  Oh, and let's make a deal between me and all of you.  I won't believe everything your child tells me first thing in the morning if you don't believe everything they tell you at night.  Ok?

And there was a smidgen of silence from the gathered parents on that Thursday evening, and then, almost as one, we started nodding our heads, smiling, looking at each other and saying, Well, that's fair.  Can't argue with that.

I know my friend Nick would welcome this, Nick whose son - Elizabeth's age, seven-years-old - told his teacher that the reason he was moving a little slow that day was because he got drunk on jello shots the night before.

Needless to say, this was not true.

Another reason I like Mrs. T - she also said that maybe the most important thing we could do as parents was to encourage a love of reading in our children.  When Elizabeth expressed keen interest in Mrs. T's Magic Tree House Research Guide: Ghosts!, she was gobsmacked when Mrs. T said, Please, Elizabeth, take the book home with you - that's what books are for!  For taking and reading!

Still, given all this, morning Drop Off - especially when the kids hurry to get in the Line after the bell tolls - can be a little nerve-wracking.  Sometimes Mrs. T will zero in on a parent, take them gently aside, and confer with them about some little something that occurred the day before.  We'd had one of those huddles, early in the year, when Elizabeth was still shaking off the fun-dust of summer and hadn't, perhaps, wholeheartedly embraced 2nd Grade with the zeal of the converted.  That's different, now - now she's in school's great! mode, but then?  That first week?

Not so much.

So when Mrs. T made a beeline for me, gently motioning me to step away from the Line for a quick, hushed conference, I did think for just a moment, oh what fresh hell is this?

Nick, Mrs. T said, I just wanted to tell you what a joy it was to read Elizabeth's first writing assignment.  I had the kids write a paragraph imagining the likes and dislikes that an alien would have if it ever visited us.  Most of the responses were in the vein of:  I like butterflies.  I hate flowers.  Rainbows are pretty.  And that was just fine - it's exactly what I asked for.  But Elizabeth began her paragraph with the line:  I am an alien who has just arrived upon the earth.  And that's such a simple thing, a line like that.  But you know what it is?  It's voice.  I can teach grammar, and a certain amount of style, but what I can't teach is voice, and let me tell you, Elizabeth has it.

Try thinking of another thing, a different thing, that Elizabeth's teacher could have told me that would have excited me any more.  If you come up with one, I'd love to hear it - because I can't.  Sure, a cure for the common cold would be right up there, but Elizabeth is seven.

Is this just bragging?  The crowing bombast of a boastful windbag?  Yup.  You got it.  Guilty.  But I'm her dad, she's my kid, and I'm asking for a pass because - the kid's got voice.

Hey, don't go.  I'd love to show you these really cute pictures of the family that Karen just printed out - really, it'll only take a second...