Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fall Poetry: A Necklace for the Teacher

Around the eaves are fringes
  Of icicles that seem
To mock the summer rainbows
  With many-colored gleam. 

Along the walk, the pebbles
  Are each a precious stone;
The grass is tasseled hoarfrost,
  The clover jewel-sown. 

~ From "November Morning" 
by Evaleen Stein

A few weeks ago, we had "Back to School Night" at the elementary school.  I normally visit each of my children's teachers and get the lay of the classroom land, and then I leave.  

But not this time.  

This time, I happened to glance at the "Classroom Helper Sign Up Sheet" before exiting Mrs. Taylor's room.  There were oodles of volunteers for reading time and math time and field trips, but no one had signed up to be the room mother.  

As I looked at the blank space, I got the same twinge in my stomach that I get when I go into the pet store and see all those homeless eyes staring at me through wire cages.  

I'm not even an animal person, but my instinct is to pile each and every hamster and guinea pig and cat and puppy into my van and hope that the creatures are all potty-trained and willing to help around the house.  

I guess it is part of being a mother:  You can't help but want everyone to have one, whether they are in aisle 9 of Petsmart, or sitting in a desk in Mrs. Taylor's class.

So I did it.  I signed up.  My mothering instincts took over, and in one sympathetic flourish of a ballpoint pen, I adopted 28 students, one teacher, and a class pet bunny named Shadow.

I walked out of the school feeling quite satisfied with my self for saving room 231 from "orphandom".

And then I realized what I had done.  

I had just signed my life away to become a cruise director, except my boat didn't come with a snappy uniform or a clipboard or a lido deck or a catchy theme song.

My cruise came with a passel of eight-year-olds who needed email lists and parent volunteer spreadsheets and parties and treats and crafts and games and lots and lots of helpers.  

It also came with Mrs. Taylor's birthday and the expectation that I would gather my motley crew and celebrate her appropriately.  I wasn't too concerned about this fact until I realized that Mrs. Taylor's birthday two days away.

I knew 3 things at this point.  1. There wasn't a lot of time to involve parents, so this birthday celebration was up to me and the kids.  2.  Mrs. Taylor loves Hawaii.  She has an island theme throughout her classroom, including a big ALOHA! sign on the door.  3.  I didn't have the time or money to do anything extravagant.  I had to pack a punch on minimal resources.

So I went the sentimental-homemade-Christmas-kind-of-route.

I grabbed a pencil and notebook and raced down to the school.  After asking Mrs. Taylor for a few minutes alone with the class, I asked each of the students the following questions:

What do you love about Mrs. Taylor?

Some of my favorite answers:  

"Because she loves me."
"Because she is patient."
"Because she is good at math."
"Because she doesn't yell."
"Because she gives us second chances."

What would you give Mrs. Taylor for her birthday if you could give her anything in the world?

Some of my favorite answers:

"A unicorn."
"A skateboard."
"A Ferrari."
"A new couch."

I quickly jotted down the students' answers and told Mrs. Taylor that I would be back the following day for a little "presentation".

At home, I typed up the answers and printed them off on white paper.  I then gathered up some ribbon, cellophane, tape, and mini chocolate bars.

I cut each of the comments into strips and then wrapped them around the candy bars.  I laid them on a 6 inch wide strip of cellophane, rolled the cellophane around the candy bar, and then used a small piece of wired ribbon to separate the candy bars and create a "flower" effect.

When the lei was finished, it was over 5 feet long, so I doubled it up and secured the two layers with a big ribbon "flower".

The next day, I went to Mrs. Taylor's class, and while she was out of the room, I taught the kids how to sing "Happy Birthday" in Hawaiian (or at least as close as I could come after a 3 minute tutorial on YouTube).  When she came back, the class surprised her with a spirited rendition of "Hau`oli La Hanau" (Happy Birthday), and one of the little girls approached Mrs. Taylor and hung the lei around her neck.

Mrs. Taylor wore her lei proudly and seemed genuinely happy with our little celebration.  She told me that her birthday usually gets overlooked since it is so close to the beginning of the school year.  

It wasn't, perhaps, the most exciting gift, but I guess a candy lei is better than nothing.

I'm sure Mrs. Taylor would have preferred to take a cruise, but to be honest, this cruise director's boat is plumb full.

Perhaps Captain Stubing has an opening . . .

Sharing at . . .


  1. What an awesome idea--I'll bet she just loved it!

  2. Love your party clever. You will love being a room mother....;)

  3. That is so sweet of you Erica!! Those are the best gifts in the world!

  4. That is so sweet of you Erica!! Those are the best gifts in the world!

  5. I'm sure she loved that necklace with the kids' answers even more than the candy. Bless your heart for agreeing to be the room mother. I hope you have a great year. The kids will appreciate whatever you do.

  6. I love this idea :) What a great way to celebrate a teacher! I am room mother too.....and you have totally inspired me!


  7. So creative! I was the "Appreciation Coordinator" for my daughter's 4th grade class last year. My job was to make sure that our teacher was remembered at each of the holidays and on her birthday. I got the job 2 days before her birthday! I was not nearly as clever. I just hightailed it down to Logan's for a gift card and headed to my backyard for a bouquet of flowers! Life to the full, Melissa @ DaisyMaeBelle


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