On Teacher Appreciation

When Trysten first went to Kindergarten I didn’t think a whole lot about his teacher or school. I know, I know, shocking. But he was a smart kid with 2 parents who weren’t going to let him fall behind on anything so there wasn’t a huge concern.

Then we brought Tariku home and we started to think more about education. We moved Trysten from his school that, year after year, gets the highest test scores in the district and some of the highest test scores in the state. We moved him because most of his school looked like him, which is fine, but the school didn’t look like us. Our new family now contained a little precious boy of color so an almost all white school wasn’t going to do.

We moved Trysten to quite possibly the most underperforming school in the district. Worried grandparents and community members chided us for the bold move but we knew it was right because Trysten would be fine. Regardless of how the school overall did on standardized tests, Trysten positively excelled.

And then we brought home Tomas and Binyam. There was only one school in our district with full time ESL people on staff and we knew bringing home a first grader we would rely heavily on ESL the first few years, so we switched again. This time to a school that usually ranked towards the bottom on standardized tests. We knew it would be a perfect fit, however, when we first saw there was a large minority population at the school and then that a really great family friend-Mrs.Meinert- would be Tariku’s Kindergarten teacher.

Pretty soon after bringing Tomas and Binyam home we could tell they might need a little more attention in school. Tomas’s phenomenal teacher proactively worked with Mrs. Meinert to have Tomas come down with her class during reading and math. At the end of the first year Tomas’s teacher, Mrs. Dunlap, showed me his first words he had written and I cried during the whole conference. Watching how much he had grown from August-May was nothing short of a miracle and I knew, though Zach and I encouraged him at home, it had everything to do with the two teachers who loved and nurtured him in his first year.

Binyam started out in preschool with Dailah but we could tell he too needed a little more work. His YMCA preschool teacher arranged a meeting for us at our local AEA. They tested Binyam and agreed he needed an all day preschool the following year at-you guessed it-one of the worst performing schools in the district (but which boasted Binyam’s Uncle Jake as the principal) 🙂 . When Binyam began his (second) year of preschool he had no idea how to spell his name, his speech was very poor and he had 0 fine motor skills. At his first conference his teacher showed us little scraps of paper that Binyam had written, “Binyam” and “Mom”. With tears running down my face I grabbed her hand, “Thank you, thank you so much.”

The last few years for Tomas and Binyam have carried on much the same. A tribe of advocates have surrounded them and fought for them, working alongside us. And though my other 3 don’t need the same degree of help, their teachers have kept them challenged and loved just the same. Watching these teachers (my kids usually have the same teachers as the sibling who went before them) love, nurture and cherish my babes finding their footing as well as my higher level learners has been an enormous blessing.

I have gotten emails from these teachers at 10:00 pm, “Hey what do you think about trying this for x?” I’ve gotten more phone calls during the day than you can possibly imagine (I quite literally just got off of one) from teachers and administrators, “Hey wanted to let you know x is having a great day today! Make sure you praise him/her for doing their best during reading!” Notes in planners talking about the progress on a letter or a sound or a journal entry. I’ve seen these teachers have to switch from this kind of technique to another, back to the first and then-no wait, let’s do it this way-within just a few months.

And always, when I’ve cried asking, “Are they going to be ok? What more can I do?” They’ve looked at me, usually with tears in their eyes and said, “Of course they’ll be ok, your kid is amazing and we’re going to do everything we can because they are worth it.” And I believed them.

One of my best girl friends was talking about one of her babes that struggles in her class. As Ashley talked about the little girl I just started crying. I can’t get over how much our kids are loved by their teachers. These teachers who work so much, get paid so little love. our. kids. Incredible.

I know not all teachers are like this, I know that. But we’ve been so incredibly grateful for the teachers we’ve had.

I think on days like today when I get a completely unprompted call from the kids’s school, “Hey, Binyam’s teacher was thinking about him…” I am humbled beyond anything else that there is so much love surrounding my kids. I am so thankful I never have to go through this parenting thing alone. So thankful for our community who has trained and support teachers, imperfectly I’m sure, that are as amazing as they are.

So to all the teachers. The ones I’m related to, the ones I am friends with and the ones who have prayed and thought about my kids every day for a year-thank you so much. My words fail me at a time like this but I am forever indebted to you!

It’s Going to Hurt

Having little A has been mostly amazing, obviously a little stress and exhaustion are mixed in there too, but mostly amazing.

Today I was changing A when I felt Tariku staring at me. I smiled at him, “What’s up, babe?”

“I like watching you with A, I feel like that’s how you would have been to me if you had me when I was 2.”

“Oh Tariku, I think I would’ve been even better with you. Because you are my son and I knew it from the moment I met you. With A I don’t know how long she’ll be with us so I can feel myself holding back a little bit. Sometimes it’s scary to fall in love with someone if you know they might leave. You ever felt like that before?”

“Yeah, I know exactly what that feels like.”

One of the more remarkable things that has come with us becoming foster parents is just how it’s affecting our adopted kiddos, specifically Tariku. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see they are reassured of their permanency every time another child comes for a bit then leaves.

I’m so thankful for where we’re at. It was a long road to get here but dammit it was worth it.

I really liked this post by one of my favorite bloggers about how we view missions, etc. Please go to that link (and, if you have time, follow the other links she uses). I’ll wait…

So I got a new (to me) computer from a friend of mine. She (the computer) is beautiful and fast and sleek. I love her. I feel a brand new excitement over blogging because things actually happen when I ask them to and that is very new and refreshing. It’s also easier to post pictures. Yay!

In the car Tariku and I fell asleep. When I woke up he was draped over my shoulder with his hands encircling mine. We have come a long way, my friends.

Dailah is in a new dance studio this year. It is SO much better than her last one. I loved this quote from her studio, “Today is your day to DANCE lightly with life, sing WILD songs of adventure, soar your spirit, unfurl your joy.”

Went on a date with the hubs. I don’t love Valentine’s Day. I hate anything that feels forced and unnatural. A day to celebrate love is my kind of day but a day to celebrate love forced on us by mega corporations? Nothankyouverymuch. So every year Zach and I pick a different day to celebrate love. It’s our way of throwing our fist up at the man.

The kids went to their first Iowa Hawkeye wrestling meet. The Hawks are really, really good so it was a lot of fun. The big 3 got front row seats with their grandpa while the rest of us sat a little higher. It was so much fun.

Tomas had his first piano “recital” last night. He has only been playing for a few months so it was mostly just showing us what he had learned. Regardless, I was so proud of him.

Tomas was SO nervous-as evidenced by his chewing his fingernails off. But he killed it. My precious son. A lot of our family came to watch his debut. For our kids from hard places there is something so profound about people they love showing up. When Tomas woke up yesterday he put on the nicest outfit he owns. All black with a red tie. Upon seeing his outfit the rest of his siblings emerged with similar looking outfits in solidarity. It meant so much to him. I just think that is the coolest. I think he is the coolest.

Not to be outdone, Zach and his brother Jake performed a little Heart and Soul as well. They looked like a couple of twins. I loved every second.