Yes, that's me in yesterday's clothes, traipsing down the street with five children ages almost three to ten. No, they don't all belong to me, but if fate or tragedy ever deemed my sister's children mine, I would take them as my own in a heartbeat. We are on our way to Carter's open house to find out who his first grade teacher will be for the coming school year. I'm not worried, since we put in our request for the kindest dearest soul late last year. If there's any child on earth who genuinely needs a gentle touch to succeed and flourish, it's Carter.
We arrive--the whole lot of us--and quickly make our way to the bulletin board. Ms. V?! Madeleine whispers to me, practically gasping from shock. She's the worst teacher ever! I wouldn't put it quite that way, but I know what she means. Ms. V. has a reputation for having a bit of an edge. And worst of all, she's known among the kids as a yeller. Carter--who above all things cannot bear yelling--immediately, instinctively bursts into tears. My little tribe starts to panic. It goes without saying; this teacher was not on our list.
Carter cries through the classroom tour and all the way home. He puts his head in his hands and tries to make himself disappear along the wall of the house. This is especially tragic since Carter is the easiest going child on earth. His only request is that you not raise your voice. Really. He can endure anything besides that. He is so rarely out-of-sorts, that it's almost impossible to bring him back from the edge when something like this hits him hard. He almost always insists on being left alone.
Carter continues to cry outside while the cadre of cousins holds court inside. I want to stay and sit in silence with Carter, but Madeleine advises against it. "Mom, really, when you do that it makes everything worse. I really think we should just let him be by himself for a minute." I find this hard to believe, and decide to get a second expert kid opinion.
"What do you think?" I ask Josiah, Carter's dearest soul brother and best, best friend.
"I have no idea," he says, feeling as crummy as I do.
"I think I know, Jen," Jack offers. "I think Carter is missing his old teacher." This sage wisdom resonates with everyone. Old and young alike let out a collective sigh. Oh the sorrows of missing a favorite familiar teacher, especially so near the first day of everything new!
It takes us this long to realize we are missing Lucy who at almost three years old is clearly on her own program, having no regard for Carter's silly needs for privacy at such a dire time as this. When we find her, she is standing outside beside the sobbing Carter--petting him like her favorite stuffed puppy dog, saying, "Don't cry, Carter. Don't cry. It's okay, it's okay."
Carter remains an island of annoyance and tears, but I can tell he feels a little bit better. In no time, Carter comes back inside--the storm passed for now. I assure him that together we'll find a way to work this out, but he hardly needs me to tell him what Lucy already made plain: that sometimes the only way through is to let someone small and safe inside--the kind of dear soul who can't imagine having rules when it comes to love, no matter how loud you cry or how much you're convinced you have to go it alone.
What are your tried and true bits of wisdom for helping kids make a tricky transition to a less-than-ideal teacher? This super-sister would really love to know.