We’re all about heroines this month. I’ve loved the posts. I love the heroines in my books. But, you know…there’s more to it.
Yesterday, I volunteered at our elementary school for an afternoon. It’s something grandparents do here in our district. They call us VIPs and we have cool nametags so everyone knows who we are and don’t have to go on alert when they see one of us in the hall. We make copies, laminate things, cut things, put things on walls, and take them down. Occasionally we get to listen to little ones read aloud to us and hug them back when they squeeze us around our legs. When we work in December, we wrap the presents, usually 20-some per class, that teachers have bought for their students.
But we’re not the heroines. We’re just lucky.
Because we wrap other presents, too. Bag after bag full of new or nearly-new clothes and toys donated by teachers to children who won’t get them otherwise. I wrapped a baby doll my daughter bought for one of her students she’s taking to the dentist today—her parents say they don’t have the time or the money to take her. She bought the doll because the little girl has never had one. Ever.
Last December, I was doing my VIP day and had to take something to the principal’s office. I was kind of hurrying and, naturally, she wasn’t there. When I stuck my head into the front office to find out where she was because I was, you know, a VIP and in a hurry, someone pointed back in the direction from which I’d come. There she was, sitting at the piano in the cafeteria playing Christmas carols while the kids ate. And sang along. She was laughing and they were laughing and I laughed, too, but I had to wipe my eyes on my sleeve. VIP indeed.
One time when I was working at the post office, a young fourth-grade teacher came in with a trunk-load of parcels to send to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her students had packed the boxes and made things and brought donations from home to put in them. They’d written letters. They’d addressed the boxes to soldiers and taped them closed and filled out the necessary customs forms. She’d taught them how to do it all, and she gave them every bit of the credit, and she paid to mail those boxes straight out of her pocket. She had to dip into the amount of money she and her husband had earmarked for their children’s Christmas, but they thought maybe it was worth it. I thought it was, too. I donated a little money to her bill and when she’d left, I had to go to the restroom and stay for a few minutes till I could work without bawling.
It’s no secret to anyone that I have a huge and special soft spot for schoolteachers. I had great ones and I’m still grateful to them. I have kids who teach and I’m proud of them.
I know that many, many good teachers are men. One of these days I’ll write about them, but this month is for heroines and my very favorite ones are the ones that I consider underpaid, overworked, and often unsung. This is for you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Merry Christmas to all.