Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

August, 2009


I love to read. One summer when I was in perhaps fourth or fifth grade, I won a contest at the library to see who could read the most books over the summer. Call me a teacher’s pet, I didn’t care. I loved to read then and still do. I have less time to read now with all these tiny people running around my house. So I have a stack of books that I mean to get to, and I try to read a few pages every night before I go to sleep. With less time I have to be picky about what I read, and I tend to favor the lighter themed books and things that will make me laugh. I started this summer with the best of intentions. My kids sleep longer now, so I hoped that I would actually be able to take my mind elsewhere in the pages of a good book.

As luck would have it, I made my way through “Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind”. Since the birth of my kids, I find that my reaction to things is very different. While this book is about the adventures of a teacher’s journey through his career, I saw in it as an unlikely parenting guide. Let me explain.

You see, I really enjoyed school as a kid (see the first paragraph above). What I loved so much about reading this was twofold. First, in looking back, I was the kid craning to get the teacher’s attention to answer the question (unless it was math). Then I averted my eyes and appeared to intently study my desk. Second, I can only hope for my children to have a teacher like Mr. Done when they get to school. In his 25 years of teaching, he seems to have amassed a wealth of kid knowledge. Like, a child’s favorite multiplication problem will never be 8x7, how to dodge questions and send the class out to recess early, and how to preserve Santa Claus. I want that for my children.

I get the feeling that Phil Done is a pied piper of sorts. His genuine love for his students and his profession are so obvious that it is almost painful, but in a good way. Although much has changed in the last several decades, I couldn’t help but reminisce more about my childhood right along with Mr. Done and the creative projects in his classroom. The most touching chapters were “Angel” and “The Second Curriculum”. I tied these together as I read the bittersweet passing of a student all too soon, along with Mr. Done’s list of thing all children should do. Again as a parent, I cannot fathom the first happening, and the rest not happening. I cried through both of those chapters, and laughed through the rest.

When I finished, summer was almost over, and I realized I had actually made it through an entire book in less than eight weeks. For me that is a huge accomplishment. Last year at this time I was writing, yes, but I was also breastfeeding triplets, getting almost zero sleep, and wondering if I had enough energy to stumble to the coffee machine before someone cried again. Most of the time that was me. This year, my summer vacation actually had a vacation in it. I visited third grade. Do I get a gold star?? Huh Mr. Done? Huh?

Originally posted at LA Moms Blog. I occasionally muses about what my kids will tell their third grade teacher about me one day.

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