It's the third week of school and I realize that as I think about the beginning of this year, there are scenes that I cannot shake from my conscious.
... As I was walking through the office, I noticed a line of parents and students registering. It looked like a line you might see at the United Nations with its varying nationalities. And there was Lori Linkous, our CRT, with a Mom, Dad, and two little girls that looked scared to death, patiently answering their every question. Their English was very broken as they searched for each word, but Lori so patiently was telling them how much they were going to love Chets Creek. I wonder how many times this scene has been repeated as Lori has welcomed new families to Chets Creek these first few weeks? She counsels. She consoles. She walks each family to class and when the child closes the door to the classroom, she reassures the parents as she walks with them all the way back to the front. How reassured they must be to have Lori's quiet smile and assurance on that first day.
..."Miss Julie" (Middleton) works the front desk and is our face to the community. She is so kind, so welcoming. She also dispenses all the medicine. I took one of my students down to get his medicine before lunch and while I was waiting he was in the Clinic talking to Julie. He is new to Chets and he was telling her that his little brother had been cleared for free lunch for several days. His dad had filled out the form the first day for free lunch but every day they told him when he walked through the lunch line that he needed money. He is naturally very anxious and he was telling her that he was worried because he didn't have any money that day and he was afraid they were not going to let him eat lunch. She could have just assured him that everything was going to be all right and sent him back to class. It's not her job to worry about his lunch money, but she recognized his anxieties and so she went to the Dining Room herself. She checked and he was right. He should have been eating free, but she was afraid it wouldn't be worked out before lunch. She called the dad to make sure that he called to get it straightened out and then gave the child an envelope with money for lunch in case they asked him for it, so he wouldn't worry.
...The county decided that we need to level all the books in our classroom libraries. In fifth grade this is a very big deal because their books are in baskets by genres and topics and authors. They know their collections so well and are such master teachers that they have not needed levels in quite a while. Not only is it something that they don't really think they need, it is a huge task. As I was trying to find a way to get it done, I asked Lourdes Smith, our Dean and resident problem solver, if she had any volunteers. The next day a volunteer showed up at my door. We show her the app we wanted to use for leveling, requested labels from teachers in the building, had a teacher volunteer to do all the labels and before I knew it, the volunteer was sitting writing levels on books.
...Angela Hopfe is a longtime para that works with my struggling students. Today she was sitting by one of my students quietly urging him to write in his reading response notebook as the teacher read out loud. After a few urgings, he leaned close to her and whispered, "I don't know how to tell you this, but you are annoying!" I laughed out loud! Angela has had a different schedule every day as we have worked to get her in the right place with the right students and teachers. She is so flexible, so talented and so over qualified for the work that we have her doing.
...Lauren Werch is my ESE counterpart. Today was the first day of her "girls lunch." She teaches "social skills" each day during lunch sessions. She doesn't take a personal lunch, but uses the time to invite different students in to eat lunch with her. The girls were so excited. They were giddy. As they settled down and began to eat, Lauren addressed one of the girls from last year that she had fought to retain in 5th grade. She asked her how her year was going so far. The young lady replied, "Last year I was just a shy little girl afraid to talk to anyone. I got left out a lot, but this year I am a social butterfly. I have friends and I can talk to anyone."
...I had a visit from a former student and his mom. He's now a 2nd grader and his mom said his grandma called him on the first day of school to ask how it went. "You're not going to believe this Grandma, but this girl in my class is named a cuss word." His mom leaned a little closer to listen in on the conversation. "Yeah, it's a cuss word all right... with an 'n' at the end... Helen!" I couldn't stop laughing. In all the years I've heard the name Helen, I've never thought of it as a cuss word with an "n" at the end!
...Today we had a computer training for our new complex grade book system. I was lost after the first five minutes so I did what all good struggling students do when things get tough, I went to the bathroom. It wasn't frustrating for everyone but certainly to a good percentage of us, but when I got home, Karen Morris, a second grade teacher, had posted a Facebook message that said something to the effect of "even though technology can be frustrating, I love my school." She could post that because she knows that we are a school where those that "got it" will be helping those of us that didn't. We'll never be left alone.
I'm just thankful. Thankful to be at Chets Creek.