I Hereby Relinquish Control: Teacher Appreciation Week, in Retrospect

Please accept these mushrooms as a token of my appreciation. (www.denny.co.za)

Not that I have a strong opinion one way or the other, but whoever came up with the idea of Intelligent Design is an unqualified, certified, card-carrying moron. In three hundred years, people will look back at us, the founders of that stupid idea, like we look at the preCopernican world. Because it’s basically the equivalent of believing the sun and all the other planets revolve around the earth. Which was actually worked out, mathematically, but according to Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design, the equation was a solution neither simple nor elegant. When they did the math for all the planets, including (gasp!) the earth, rotating around the sun, the equation was both.

I bring this up, obviously, because this is Teacher Appreciation Week. Sure, teachers get a whole week and mothers only get one day, but I do not begrudge the teachers their week. We love Mrs. Pursell, Mrs. Doll, and everyone at Montessori, and they work their butts off. And so we happily went along with the protocol: a cupcake from the whole class on Monday. A thank you note from each child on Tuesday. A flower from each child on Wednesday. A vegetable or a piece of fruit from each child on Thursday. And, as parent-teacher liaison, I collected small monetary donations for a spa certificate to be presented today.

The stress began on Tuesday. Mbot, who is normally most content when left with pencils and paper, wanted to make rockets out of his Trio set instead. Then he wanted to draw a picture for his friend Ybot. Then for his brother. After three hours of on-and-off trying, we had three pictures (the Spanish teacher needed one, too). But there was something wrong with the amount of stress I felt during this exercise.

Wednesday, on the way to music class, we stopped at Safeway for two flowers. I told Mbot he could pick them out. I gave him choices of the least expensive varieties. He chose the sunflowers. Since they were only $3 for three, we got two bunches. He held one. Gbot held one. The flowers were dragged along the floor. They were swung through the air. They were carried over their shoulders like hobo sticks. By the time they got to music class, I’m sure several days had been taken from their already truncated lives. By the time Mbot had carried them in this fashion down the path to school, through the lobby, into the courtyard and into the hands of the teachers, I had decided that, when gifts are requested from little people, you have to take into consideration the fact that we, as adults, are pressing our standards and expectations and values onto people who have not yet been on earth long enough to learn our ways.

And so, by Thursday, when we went to school via the Safeway produce department, I found myself saying “yes” to the yellow bell pepper for Mrs. Doll ($1 apiece!). And to the carton of sliced mushrooms for Mrs. Pursell. The teachers were just lucky that, on the way to the checkout counter, we passed a display of very attractive strawberries at $1.28 per carton. Mbot agreed that they would be good, too. But if he hadn’t, Mrs. Pursell would have gotten the mushrooms. And I would have been perfectly okay with that. She could eat mushroom soup while admiring her world-weary sunflower and begrudgingly drawn picture of the antique cat.

It has been a week of lessons in weighing value, struggling for perspective, and drawing boundaries. I crawl out the end of it educated and exhausted.

They say that the behavior of three year-olds breaks us in for the behavior of teenagers. We get twelve years of practice before the big stuff starts. I believe it. The whole process has been magnificently designed. By The Laws of Nature. By Evolution. Give it up, all you Intelligent Designers. Relinquish control. If the universe had been designed by a humanlike mind–a truly intelligent female one, at least–there would have been a weekly spa visit included.

5 thoughts on “I Hereby Relinquish Control: Teacher Appreciation Week, in Retrospect

  1. Good ole Teacher Appreciation week. I’m glad you snagged those strawberries. You have indeed evolved 😉

    This post reminded me of when I was teaching in Korea and we had Teachers Day (their efficient society has whittled it down to a single day.) I think it was just as stressful for us as it was for the parents and kids. May have to blog about that one.

    • Thanks for giving a teacher’s perspective. I’d love to read about Korean Teachers Day. And thanks for confirming the strawberries as a good choice. In a few years we’ll be pros at TAW–evolution is a slow process!

  2. Seems like the folks setting up TAW didn’t think ahead….they needed to either make it clear that draggedy sunflowers are so totally in the spirit of the thing, or else that Vases and Tulips Are Appreciated, Thank You Very Much, and thus then to make it much shorter. (What was the goal? Introduction to gift giving for the kids to get them to think about it and enjoy it, and also think about other people and appreciating them? that’s fine but if the emphasis is on the kids doing it then emphasis needs to be off, and explicitly so, Perfection in the gifts.)

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