Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

One of my best childhood memories is indeed a strange one. My mom used to invite my teacher over for dinner once a year. Can you imagine? This was always one of the best nights of my school year. I remember so well the anticipation of it. Ma would tell me a few weeks in advance that she had invited Ms. So-and-so over for dinner and I would anxiously await the night. My mom would cook a special meal (usually Mexican food - but fancy stuff like enchiladas or something) and a special dessert. I remember more about the anticipation of the evening than I remember the actual evenings themselves. I remember mostly just staying quiet while the adults talked. And I vividly remember this feeling of, "My teacher is normal. She must eat dinner every night just like we do." I also remember being so happy that the teacher would know where I lived and what my parents were like. That somehow this would build a bond between us. I've wondered more than a few times why my mom did this. When I asked her one time she said something really amazingly smart like, "Well, what a kind way to welcome someone into your home and get to know more about them. And, what a kind way for them to know more about you. Sharing food together." Yes, isn't that true?

Can you imagine doing that now-a-days? Wouldn't it be weird? What would the teacher think? What would you say? Well, my kids had an experience the other night that - after it happened - has been the one occurrence in their short lives that I could remotely liken to what I experienced as a child. And, it has got me thinking about my BC (before children) life as a teacher and about my mother and how much she knew about life.

As a school fundraiser (because doesn't everything have to do with money now?) the teachers and administrators at my kids' school delivered pizza to families from our school that ordered pizza from a local pizza place. A portion of all money earned was donated to the school.

My kids anticipated this event like it was the Second Coming. It was funny. They wanted me to mark it on the calendar (which I did - because wouldn't it have been AWFUL to forget and actually cook dinner when we were getting pizza?) and they counted down for at least a week before the actual day. They took bets on who would deliver their pizza. Several times they giggled when asking me, "So, Ms. So-and-so - if she is our delivery person (insert wild laughter) will know where we live???" Followed by hysterical laughter again, chatting among themselves and sometimes belly-holding with the thought that someone from their school would know where they lived.

It took me back several years when I was a teacher in North Carolina and when I was an administrator in Texas. I, as a teacher and later as an administrator, made several home visits. And what an experience that was. I taught for several years before I did this and learned immediately what a better teacher I would have been if I had visited more children in their homes. Among other things, I certainly got an up-close look at extreme poverty. And if you don't know what that looks like and you are teaching extremely poor kids - you should. I saw things first-hand what I had only imagined in my head. And what a difference that made. I saw more things than I can list here - but just a few that top my list: houses so filthy that I was truly scared for the safety of the babies crawling around on the floor, adults opening the door in various stages of dress with the house reeking of drugs and other unsavory things, trailers with no electricity or running water, outhouses, houses with no flooring of any kind, the list goes on and on. Fortunately I also saw and met so many people trying really hard to make a loving, caring home for their precious children.

Why this silly fundraiser should bring back so many memories for me, I don't know and I've stopped caring because my thoughts have been so interesting (if only to me - which is usually the case ;o). When the ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL and my son's teacher delivered our pizza a few nights ago they could have hung the moon. My kids are still talking about it. "Mom, the assistant principal knows where we live!!!" And, what about my mom? Was she one smart lady way ahead of her time, or what?