I have always had a flipped perception of public school.
I entered kindergarten reading chapter books and able to make change for a five. Mrs. Zander didn't have to teach me that, my parents already had.
Maybe that's why we gave so much thought to putting Yoda into kindergarten this year. She didn't need to learn to read, or count to 100. But there was so much she didn't know, so much we couldn't teach her.
Which was why our search was so frustrating. Everywhere we looked, everyone we spoke to rambled on about pedagogy and test scores and reading levels.
Where else in life does this even matter? Don't we all just even out eventually? Has anyone ever lost a job because, "Well, I'm sorry Mr. S., we'd love to hire you but you're 34, and you're only reading at a 28 year-old level."
Unless we're taste testing cafeteria pizza, we couldn't possibly have cared less.
Oh, you have a doctorate? That's great, so did my chemistry professor and I don't want him teaching my five year-old.
So it was with some trepidation that we finally visited our neighborhood school. The principal gave us a pass to one of the kindergarten rooms. We saw the kids writing in journals, creating art, reading out loud to each other - normal kindergarten stuff.
We watched, we waited, and then we asked, "Our kid is shy, she's quiet. She's smart, but you may never know it because she probably won't talk to you. What do you do for somebody who struggles like that?"
The teacher smiled and we prepared ourselves to hear something about the programs available through the school psychologist or what pedagogy she was likely to employ based on the latest in-service program she'd attended.
"Well," she said, "that does happen sometimes. And when it does, I will love her. Just love her. Just the way she is."
It's what we hoped, what we dreamed, what we wished was true, but what we'd given up on hearing. Our kid needed to learn to count to 1000. She also needed to learn her sight words, and all 50 states, but most of all, our kid needed to learn to trust people, to love another adult, to know that the world is a good place full of humans who will like you - even love you - for exactly who you are.
It's exactly what she learned this year. It's what she needed most of all. She needed the hugs doled out at the end of the day. She needed permission to make mistakes and laugh at them. She needed to know it was ok to ask questions.
She needed love, and it's a damn shame there isn't a standardized test to measure how much a teacher's heart can change a kid's life - it's the only measure of a kindergarten teacher that really counts.
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