I can’t count the number of times I have been stuck in traffic or on the freeway behind a vehicle sporting a “my kid is…” bumper sticker. I’m bet you’ve lost track as well.
You know the sort of sticker I’m talking about right? They say something like “my kid is on the honor roll at such and such school” or “my kid could beat up your honor roll student.” (to which I reply “good for your perfect kid” and “I think I’ll give you a wide berth because you scare me.”)
I always assumed that the award winning kids behind the stickers were the real life equivalent of Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame, rule abiding know it alls and teacher’s pets. The sort of kids you brag about and drive the other moms nuts with.
The Perfect kids.
Then my husband Kel texted me a grainy video which prompted me to burst into tears.
Earlier in the day my phone lit up with the name of my daughter Noelle’s school for the second day in a row. The first time was due to a pants malfunction on superhero day, bummer, a pain, but manageable.
I have only one reaction when I see that my children’s schools are calling midday. Oh Expletive %#*@…
On the other end of the line the secretary said… “I have your daughter here she was sent to the office to finish a project and she hasn’t done any work on it at all, can one of you come and help her?”
I was sick, Kel had a day off, so he jumped in the car to go help Noelle with her non fiction project. He wasn’t a happy camper, being sent to the office? Our Kid? No way.
A few minutes later I was able to talk to her teacher and learn that at their school, the office was an asset they used for students who needed a distraction free environment… among other reasons. We chatted about Noelle, her struggles, her assets, my heart for her and her tender spirit. She reassured me that she loved working with Noelle and saw us as a good, supportive, non flaky family.
You see, my daughter Noelle has sensory processing disorder, she’s a sensory seeker. This means that a lot of times her brain has no idea what her body is up to and that she is often jumping, walking, tipping back her chair and bumping into other classmates.
She’s crazy bright, but struggles to get it done.
It also means that sitting and focusing is often hard for her when she is having a low-stimulation day. And when outdoor recess gets cancelled, it gets harder still.
She is a square peg in the round hole that is the American public school system.
And … she is one of the sweetest people alive. She will do anything to help you, if you are sick, she will make you tea. If you are crying, she will hold you. If you are sad, she will cheer you up with a funny song and dance.
She sees you, she loves you, she is creative, kind and amazing and tender.
And school is a struggle for her. Many days when I pick her up, it’s been a hard day and she doesn’t want to talk about it.
So that day, when I got the grainy video from Kel as he wrapped up a day of sitting with her, I burst into tears.
Because my girl, who often winds up “on red” for behavior slip ups, who doesn’t always mesh with the demands of her school day… had been named student of the month.
She is no Hermione, she is no know it all, and yet her classmates went wild when her teacher presented her with the award.
As her teacher, a god send of a person, stood in front of the assembly she said…
“This girl works VERY HARD to stay on task. She tries to help everyone do their best and she tries to do her best. And she always makes sure that she is helpful, no matter what anyone else is doing, she wants to be helpful, she wants to help that person. So this month’s award goes to Noelle Penny.”
And with that Noelle skipped up in her snow boots as her classmates clapped and cheered, to receive her award.
You see the “star student stickers” don’t always refer to someone who was a perfect match for school and gave their teachers no challenges.
It doesn’t mean a family that got a perfect kid and is bragging about it.
Nope. I think often the story behind the stickers involves perseverance, struggle and a worried mom who is biting her nails awaiting the answer to the very normal question of “how was your day?”
I think that they involve a teacher who saw the student for who they are, rather than what they were struggling with.
I believe that when you see one of these stickers, you should just assume that there is a story there, of a kid and a mom and a dad and a teacher who all saw things as they actually are and got over the struggle and ease to see a child for who they were created to be.
God bless all the players involved. And thank you thank you thank you Lord for the teachers who see, give, love and adjust to meet the needs of their students as the individuals that they are. Amen.
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