Susan Bell has chalked up plenty of memories in the past 37 years as a fourth-grade teacher. And they’ll stay alive, thanks to the thoughtful cards and notes she has received through the years from parents and students.
“There are special gifts that I’ll never part with either, like a one-of-a-kind clay pot painted and signed by the kids in my 2004 classroom,” says this 59-year-old former Minnesota State Teacher of the Year Finalist, who’s retiring this year.
“It means a lot that the gift idea was a group project, created by the students,” she said.
Her comment got me thinking about the importance of stepping back once in a while and letting kids take the lead.
I remember a day a few years ago when I was checking off a routine to-do list and noticed my daughter’s writing at the bottom: “Pick up flower bouquet for Latin teacher.” Her eighth-grade classmates had collected $16 for a group end-of-the-year thank-you gift for Mrs.Vitt.
En route to the florist, we got sidetracked and stopped at a garden center, where a $3.99 geranium pot caught my daughter’s eye. Within minutes, our cart was blooming with pink, red and white geraniums, a big clay pot and a sack of soil.
She dumped her plastic bag of coins at the cash-register counter and covered the bill to the penny.
We hurried home, where she painted the pot with bright acrylic paints and wrote the date in giant Roman numerals with paint pens, leaving enough room for classmates to sign their Latin names. And then she potted the flowers together.
As I watched my daughter in action that day, I internalized the importance of parenting on the sidelines once in a while. If we are patient and don’t try to do everything our way, we present the opportunity for children to learn new skills and grow in confidence.
So, when you’re plowing through errands and chores during the more relaxed summer months ahead, let the kids sidetrack you once in a while.
It may be a little thing, but another memory is in the making, and you will have shared it with your children.