Maybe this is purely anecdotal.
Or maybe it’s not.
Either way, I want to share this story with you.
For the first two years of school, Number 6 cried for a good 50% of every weekday morning.
He didn’t want to go to school.
He hated school.
School wasn’t fun.
It was boring.
It was long.
There was no time to play.
He wanted to be home so he could play with his Lego sets and draw.
We had two years of tears and Sunday night blues meltdowns.
And then in second grade Number 6 got Mrs. P for his teacher.
And he thrived in school.
He was a leader in the classroom.
He looked forward to getting on the bus.
Unlike the previous year, I didn’t receive a single email regarding behavior issues in the classroom.
In fact, twice that year I got messages from women I know who subbed in Mrs. P’s classroom telling me how kind and helpful and good a kid Number 6 was.
And the tears completely stopped.
There was no dread, no protesting, no pleading and no crying.
When I went to Number 6’s parent teacher conference with Mrs. P, she told me about all the things she appreciated about him.
They were the same strengths I have always recognized in him that other people might view as weaknesses.
For a male.
He’s affectionate and empathetic and sensitive and strangely in tune with other people’s emotions.
I often describe him as my mama’s boy.
That’s probably not politically correct these days.
But that’s what he is.
He loves his mama and he’s not afraid to show it.
And I’m not afraid to encourage it.
Anyway, being sensitive and emotional myself, I burst into tears at that conference when Mrs. P made it crystal clear that her first priority as a teacher was connecting with each student in the classroom by connecting with my child.
And truly appreciating him.
I never cried in a conference before.
I felt like a lunatic. But Mrs. P didn’t care.
In fact, she welled up a little bit, too.
I composed myself and explained to Mrs. P how Number 6 had a couple of rough years.
Then I told Mrs. P the same thing I tell all my kids’ kindergarten, first, second, and third grade teachers.
I do not force my kids to do homework.
Not in those grades.
If it’s sent home, it is most likely not coming back.
If my kids want to work on it, of course that’s fine.
But I won’t make them.
Especially Number 6. He had enough trouble getting to school in the first place.
All I wanted for him was to make it through the day.
When he got home, that was time to unwind, decompress, and chill out.
He never did any homework.
We’d read just about every night, but that was it.
Number 6 had a phenomenal year.
He excelled in all areas.
Sure, he’s a bright kid.
But Mrs. P brought out the best in him.
And it wasn’t because she hammered the kids with testing practice and homework.
It’s because she connected with every single kid in that room.
And when a kid feels important and included and respected and valued, a kid is ready to learn.
And that’s how kids succeed.
Needless to say, when the school year came to an end last year, I was close to devastated.
Mrs. P would be missed.
I don’t like saying goodbyes at the end of the school year.
I just get too emotional. Especially when I love the teacher.
So when Number 6 had his end-of-the-year party last year, I didn’t say goodbye.
A couple months earlier I had emailed Mrs. P and asked her if she’d be interested in working on a book about kindness together.
She said she would.
So I held onto that.
I’d see her again.
Number 7 was going into second grade the next year, but our kids have never had the same teacher for the same grade, so I knew that was it for us.
I just had to wait for the teacher placements to be announced, and once it was confirmed that we didn’t have Mrs. P, we could start talking about that kindness book!
Our school district doesn’t post teacher placements until the week before school starts, though.
So I had to wait until August.
The day in August that the portal opens online, every parent in town is frantically trying to access their account.
When I logged in to mine, I closed one eye and squinted through the other.
I was scared to see whose class Number 7 would be in.
She’s young for her grade with an October birthday, so she’d be six when she entered second grade.
Sometimes Number 7 is a tough nut. She knows what she wants and when she makes up her mind, that’s it.
She is usually super independent, but in other ways, she’s still just a baby, really.
And she had pretty much the same opinion of school as Number 6.
She didn’t want to go.
Until I saw who her teacher would be for second grade.
It was Mrs. P.
We had won the teacher lottery two years in a row.
I burst into tears.
At Number 7’s parent-teacher conference, I said the same thing to Mrs. P this year as I had the year before.
I would not be forcing Number 7 to do homework.
Mrs. P. got it.
She never forced it.
She offered it, but that was it.
Fast forward to this past week.
Number 7’s school participated in Continental Math League meets throughout the year.
Mrs. P’s class was the Regional First Place Winner, and six kids in her class received awards as Regional Students of Distinction.
And Number 7 was one of them.
I was kinda shocked.
I didn’t realize Number 7 was such a strong math student.
You know how she got to be one?
It wasn’t from being slammed with test prep.
It wasn’t because I spend a bunch of time with her every night practicing math stuff. Because I spend none.
And it definitely wasn’t because she did plenty of homework.
It was because Mrs. P creates an environment that’s conducive to learning by focusing first on connection, kindness, empathy, compassion, and team work.
AND IT SHOWS.
I’m no researcher, but is it possible that Mrs. P’s students are excelling because they are focusing on the stuff that’s really important and that feeling valued and included is essential to helping our kids learn?
Maybe it’s just a coincidence.
Maybe it’s purely anecdotal.
OR MAYBE IT’S NOT.
Thanks for two incredible years, Mrs. P.
You are one in a million, and I’m so grateful our paths crossed.
And since today was the last day of school and my kids are no longer in your class and there’s no conflict of interest,
I think it’s time that you and me get started on that book.