The day after my daughter turned 2, I handed her little toddler body over to her first teacher, Miss P., at the preschool in the church next door to our apartment building in Queens. I liked the school for its convenience, of course, but also for its small, relaxed atmosphere and the way all the teachers treated the kids like family. I'm pretty sure Miss P. carried Chloe on her hip most of the time during those first few weeks of part-time care because she was so shy and clingy.
Since that first year at the church daycare, Chloe has had seven more first days and dozens of teachers at three different schools. This year, she's in third grade with Mrs. B., a rockstar teacher who is tough but fair, known for pushing her kids to exceed standards and rewarding them with numerous field trips. When I asked her about my daughter's shyness, Mrs. B., gave me a perplexed look and said, very nicely, "That is not a word I would ever use to describe her."
While this personal growth in my child is likely a result of a host of things—the theater group her dad and I cajoled her into three years ago, the general maturation that happens between ages 2 and 8, and who knows what else—I also have those myriad teachers to thank for bringing Chloe out of her shell. Their praise has built her confidence; their prodding has stretched her boundaries; their expectations have increased what she believes is possible for herself.
Her teachers have also given her knowledge I literally could not have. Some moms may be good at teaching their kids their letters and numbers, but it was not in my wheelhouse. I could barely fathom how to begin the process, and my attempts were met with stubborn refusals to cooperate from my child. But Chloe's preschool and pre-K teachers had her reading, writing and counting in no time. Addition and subtraction in kindergarten and first grade? Thanks, Mrs. N. and Ms. W.! Writing in paragraphs in second? Thanks, Miss M.! Plus, now that Mrs. B. handled the introduction to fractions and geometry in the third grade, I'm pretty sure it won't be long before I am completely out of my league in math. And, while I may be a professional writer and editor in my adult life, teaching English to my child in a way she can understand is still a few years off for me. Thank goodness there are people trained to teach my daughter what she needs to know—and some things she doesn't. I'm talking to you, high-school Calculus.
As our children often spend more weekday hours with their teachers than they do with their parents, having great ones is a huge blessing. So far, we've been extremely lucky. In addition to instructing her educationally and fostering her social and emotional development, her teachers really have been there for her as a person, too. I can see and feel how much they love her, and I know Chloe can feel it, too.
The gratitude I feel for these teachers, to whom I entrust the most valuable thing in my life, is hard to put into words. At 2 years old, my child couldn't vocalize what happened during the brief hours she spent at school, so I had to go on faith that they were taking good care of her. Her increasing willingness to unwrap her chubby little fingers from my neck at drop-off time and her smiles at the end of the day were the proof I got.
Now, she skips off through the gates to her elementary school in the morning without a care in the world. I know she's excited to go be with her friends and her amazing teachers and live a secret life her dad and I can only piece together from the after-school stories or dinnertime conversations. Her teachers know a version of her I will never really know, never completely see. It makes me sad to not witness every moment, but I'm consoled by the fact that the adults who are there with her are truly in her corner. My daughter's wonderful teachers are helping me and her dad raise an amazing kid, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.