Monday, February 6, 2012

Bad Mommy

I should be ashamed of myself!  Allow me to explain: 

I teach in the same school that my two daughters attend.  All in all, this is a delightful experience.  It is a small school, essentially one long hallway with the youngest students at one end and the oldest (the ones I teach) at the other end.  Our classroom doors are usually open and there is a wonderful, community feel to this little gem of a school.  I come to work happy every day and most days I even go home happy!

I see my daughters multiple times a day including when they wander into the classroom when I am teaching for a quick hug or help with a button or zipper.  Often they stop me in the hallway to give me a giant bear hug or vice versa.  Last Friday, I had outside lunch duty and as the students were lining up in their grade levels to go inside, I had the privilege of watching my daughter Emily punch the boy beside her (who, in her defense, had pushed her first).  What parents would not want to be privy to such precious moments?  

"It's always the teacher parents..." is the common refrain around here as we (I am not the only parent with children at this school) are being tracked down for various things we have forgotten. 

Teaching at the same school my daughters attend also has its pratfalls.  I am the mom who is always being chased down because I didn't sign the permission slip for the field trip or make sure Emily did her "rainbow writing."  I am the mom who sends a lunch along with my girls even though it is "special lunch" day and pizza is being served and who doesn't read the newsletter (even though I religiously write my own every single week) reminding parents that library day has been changed or that an experiment involving ice cubes and toothpicks should have occurred over the weekend.  

To my credit, I have not yet gotten in the car and driven home after school, leaving my children behind at their swimming or karate or skipping lessons.  I've come close, but not yet.  Anyway, they have assured me if I ever do leave them behind, they won't worry: they'll just wait for me to turn around and come get them.  They'll play in the pirate ship in the hallway or just read in the cozy couch beside the office.  It’s good they have such confidence in me and such comfort at the school!

Our term report cards went home this Friday resulting in mass celebration and hoopla from teachers.  If you are not a teacher, you are probably unaware of the countless hours that goes into creating these canon-like tomes that are chock-full of information about your child based on endless hours of observation, assessment and analyzing of data.  

After all this is accomplished, we then need to finesse the words and grades to make sure we are being honest and accurate, but still being fair and hopeful.  It is an act of writing and editing bravado that few bestselling authors could pull off.  We primary school teachers are a talented and hardworking bunch.  (If you are not sure about this, please feel free to come and try to teach and plan one of our classes for just one day and you will see that we truly do deserve the great holidays we receive!)

Anyway, my daughters' reports went home on Friday just like the rest of the school children's did.  The difference between this mama and presumably the rest of the mamas in this school is that somehow I managed to completely forget that my children had the hallowed report cards sitting in their backpacks.

This morning (Monday) at about 10:30, Emily’s lovely teaching assistant came into my room with two items in her hand: a field trip permission slip that I had neither signed nor paid for and Emily's report card.  I gulped as the magnitude of my remissiveness set in.  

"This was in Emily's backpack along with this slip from last week," she mumbled sheepishly, looking embarrassed.  Reader, she was not embarrassed for herself but for me!  How could this teacher, who spent countless hours writing, refining, documenting and poring over evidence for reports on her own students, not have even looked at her own daughters' (yes, plural) report cards?

Multiple excuses came to mind in an instant: I am an older mother; I started having a family late in life; my car is in the garage; Alzheimer’s runs in my family; I don't like to read; the dogs ate the reports; the girls should have hand delivered them to me - it's THEIR responsibility.  

None of these excuses seemed plausible so I considered lying and saying indignantly that, of course, I had read the report. The tape sealing the envelope was unbroken, however, and this clever lady knew better than to think I had read it.  She's tracked me down before.  She's onto my game.

So I blushed and took the report from her, wrote a cheque for the field trip, signed the form and sent her on her way.  She was kind enough to say on her way out of the room, "Even though you always forget this kind of stuff, you're still one of the best parents I know."  Thank you, Jessie: you saved my pride. 

Honestly? I am a pretty damn good parent.  I may not have been reading their reports this weekend, but we were baking cookies together and playing taxi and eating sushi on the bed and watching The Jetsons. I read to them; they read to me; I tucked them in; we hiked a hill together and picked fiddlehead ferns and hung out on our beach together; we snuggled in bed together.  I told them both multiple times how much I loved them and also that they had better stop chewing with their mouths open, so help me.  I was well and truly involved.

And when I finally got a chance to read the reports?  Come on.  I know my daughters.  I knew what those reports would say.  I spend enough time with them in and out of school to be able to write those reports myself.  The teachers nailed it: they know my daughters well, excellent teachers that they are.  

I will read their reports again and carefully too; Don and I will read their reports together (now that he knows they have been sent out); we will read the reports with the girls individually and celebrate their successes and talk about strategies for improving in other areas (bossy-ness is a word that comes to mind for one big sister).  We will use them to validate our children and for us to find construct ways to help them.

There is another reason I will spend time carefully reading the reports, though:

To honor the teachers that put all the blood, sweat and tears into writing them: to honor the teachers who put all the time and patience and effort and love into teaching my girls and helping them to become happy, healthy learners who love to go to school every day.  Thank you, Hayley and Amelia!  I may be a forgetful parent, but I am an appreciative one.

I know, love and treasure my children.  Their reports are great documentation of how they are doing and will serve as wonderful memories for us as we look at them in their futures.  

The fact that I didn't read them this weekend?  The world is still spinning on its axis and nothing has changed.  I've got a couple of sweet, smart daughters whom I love to the moon and back, no matter what.  

Reports, shmports...

My resolutions for improving my parental involvement:

  •  Have the girls show me their school folders each day.
  •  Sign all permission slips and forms and return to school promptly.
  • Actually use the calendar that is on our fridge to record school stuff on.
  • Read and snuggle and play and laugh with them even more than I already do.
  • Start making the girls do daily test practice to get ready for university entrance exams. (Just kidding!)

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