by Michael Murphy
Being a teacher you expect to have an impact. You expect the children you teach to at some point carry a couple of your lessons into the rest of their lives. This can be a difficult idea when you consider a preschool or primary grade student’s perspective. As a preschool teacher I battle for attention in a steel cage versus SpongeBob Squarepants, Mickey Mouse and a plethora of Disney Princesses for the World Heavyweight Champion of THE BRAIIIN… and sometimes I come out on top. Every once in a while I walk away with a victory. I get that it is never a routine victory, and that’s the joy of teaching. It is not often, however that a teacher expects to reach the parents in the same way.
At Easter Seals Bucks County Division, our Friendship Academy parents often pick up their students right from the classroom (as opposed to waiting in a car line or waiting for dismissal at the door). This offers us a unique opportunity to wrap up the day, share some praise and concerns about their child and creates the welcoming family community that we have established so well.
During an encounter with a parent after their child’s particularly rough day, one of several in recent history, I shared my concern:
“They did great with X, Y and Z but could use some extra help with A. Can I share some strategies with you?”
The look of joy, relief and grace poured from the parent. “I thank you. You do it, I don’t know how you do it, but you do it. They are a different kid since they started here. They clean up at home Because “Mom Mr. Mike said so.”
I’ve gotten compliments before, people notice what teachers do sometimes, but then mom stopped and reached out and said “this place is amazing. I love it. Everyone says hello, they smile, they ask how I am, they all know (child’s) name. You don’t know, Mr Mike. I come in here and I am so happy. You are angels without wings here. You may not see your wings, but I see them. All of you have them.”
I’ve gotten compliments before. I’ve gotten hugs and high fives, I’ve seen parents tear up with gratitude. In this sense I know I am lucky. Not every teacher gets to hear or see the kinds of things, achievements progress milestones that we get to see at Easter Seals. Not every teacher gets to be part of such a team as Easter seals. The parent went on to talk about the staff and administrators at the front desk who greet them both by name each day. She also discussed teachers, therapists and teaching assistants from the building that share smiles and praise her child’s walking feet or listening ears. She crosses fellow parents who share a wave or some words as they hustle to another stop or errand.
I’ve never heard any of these people set goals to make people smile, but it is just something we do here at Easter Seals. Something ingrained in our approach and our routine; to be thankful for each child and family we get to reach and those that are supportive and positive about what we do. It’s not always easy and no day is like another. We smile and take those parents who need us under our wings, that now I know we have, and let them know that they have a team behind them.