I didn’t know there was such a thing til I met Ms. X.
Correction: The first time I met her, it was hardly love at first sight. She terrified me. I was at our neighborhood elementary school (for the first time, that was scary enough), for an evening discussion group about how to prepare your kid for kindergarten. (In this case, Annabelle.)
Two teachers spoke: Ms. X, and another longtime kindergarten teacher at the school. As soon as the other one opened her mouth, I knew Annabelle had to have her. She was gentle and sweet, a little sing songy (in an endearing way). She reminded me of the teachers at Annabelle’s pre-school, where it’s all about choices and feelings and other squishy things.
Ms. X was hard. At least, I thought so. She had a killer manicure, a beautiful head of hair and an attitude that said, “I’m going to kick your kid’s ass” and thoroughly enjoy the process.
(Remember Joan Cusack’s character in the movie “about last night”, the kindergarten teacher who views the kids as the enemy? Well, I’m embarrassed to admit that I saw the movie so many times in the 80s that I do remember it even if you don’t. Ms. X was a little like that.)
My knees were knocking, by the time she finished talking. I knew I had to get the OTHER teacher.
Then I ran into an old acquaintance (not quite a friend, not then, though I certainly call her one now) at Trader Joe’s. She noted, laughing, that I was able to keep both kids in the cart, carry on a detailed conversation with Ray on the cell, and shop at the same time.
It’s nice when someone notices your gifts, you know?
When we figured out our kids would be at the same school (her son’s older) she had one piece of advice: “Request Ms. X.”
“No way!” I said. “She scares the crap out of me!”
(Note to self: Check to make sure random parent acquaintance is not BFFs with teacher before you say something like, “No way! She scares the crap out of me!”)
In the end, I took my new friend’s advice. And I’m forever in her debt.
“Annabelle will adore Ms. X,” she said. “Yeah, she’s firm, but she’s girly and fun and the kids all love her.”
All true. Annabelle flourished and now I understand all about the Teacher Crush.
Late last year, I had to break it to Ms. X, that I was splitting my affections: I’d discovered Mrs. Z, the Rock Star of the Second Grade.
When the letter for Annabelle came, I was beside myself.
But nothing compared to the relief that came with Sophie’s letter. I don’t think I would be sending Sophie to this school — correction, I know I wouldn’t — if it weren’t for this teacher. And I’m not just saying that because she might read this. I’m saying it in spite of that — because I hate for her to feel that kind of pressure.
It’s okay. This woman embodies grace under pressure. Anyone who can get 22 5-year-olds to do anything simultaneously — particularly if it involves doing it with their mouths shut — is my idea of Wonder Woman.
Ms. X speaks the language of kindergarten.
She keeps insisting she’s not worried about Sophie. But she knows I am. Today she called to ask if we could come in sometime this week — not during Meet the Teacher, but a separate time when the classroom will be empty — so Sophie can familiarize herself with her new surroundings. Ms. X told me splans to get projects ready for Sophie each day, so she doesn’t feel overwhelmed with a lot of cutting or drawing. No teacher has time for this. But Ms. X is doing it anyway. And if she has other kids in the class with specific needs, she’ll do the same for them.
I can bring her Diet Coke and Starbucks til she runs to the bathroom (which she also intends to show Sophie, ahead of time, to make sure she’s comfortable) and still, I’ll never be able to thank her.
Maybe Sophie will figure out a way, this year.