Teacher Appreciation Week: Mums and Conundrums

Imagine yourself putting on this outfit and bicycling through a splashpark. Now you are in the right frame of mind to choose a flower to give the teacher...

Imagine yourself putting on this outfit and bicycling through a splashpark. Now you are in the right frame of mind to choose a flower to give the teacher…

It is Teacher Appreciation Week again.

I love our teachers. Mrs. Pursell and Mrs. Gonzales rock. They are firm, understanding, insightful, patient, and smart. But I do not like Teacher Appreciation Week.

Part of my dislike for it is founded in my own inability to sit the bots down to make cards for their teachers a week in advance. And yesteday, on the way to the varicose vein doctor, I forgot to ask the babysitter to oversee a card-making event.

And so this morning, while sipping strawberry-secret-spinach smoothies festooned with tropical umbrellas, we had a card-making extravaganza. For three-year-old Gbot, this meant going wild with the Elmer’s glue. For four-year-old Mbot, this meant attempting to cut out snowflakes and hearts from flowery paper. He is neither strong enough or well-coordinated enough to cut through four layers of paper at once with dull child-proof scissors, and got frustrated, but at last we ended up with four cards that were only slightly goopy still upon delivery.

Yesterday was “bring your teacher a flower” day. Last year I think we brought them each a sunflower from Safeway. This year, however, we have dwarfish mums growing on the patio, and Husbot helped the bots cut one apiece for their teachers. All the other kids brought in gorgeous tulips, luscious roses, sunflowers the size of dessert plates, frilly carnations, lilting lilies. Our raggedy offerings were on six-inch stems. Last time I checked, they had not made it into the glass vases overflowing with long-stemmed gorgeousness.

But Mbot and Gbot don’t know the difference. They clutched each measly mum as though it was a rare orchid for a prom date. (although I caught Gbot squeezing one blossom in the back seat). Among the preschool set, there is definitely a disconnect between aesthetics and intension.

And it begs the question: is Teacher Appreciation Week for the students to show their appreciation? Or for parents to show their appreciation? Maybe both, but it’s tought to balance the two. One thing it isn’t is a contest. But I have to consciously stop myself from comparing–from thinking with a sigh, “Wow, our flowers are totally lame.”  These talented women who are the bots’ teachers wouldn’t be preschool teachers if they didn’t see the beauty in a dwarfish, tightly-clutched mum that’s slightly worse for being fondled on the ten-minute trip to school.

We appreciate them.


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.