Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Price of a Kindergarten Teacher

Our five year old daughter is our youngest of three children. She spends most of her time playing and competing with her two older brothers. As many would expect with such a dynamic, she is a gritty kid.

All three of our children are very different. My wife and I see special talents in each of them. Like any parent, we also worry.

This was their first week of school. Immediately after my daughter introduced herself to her teacher, she followed with "I'm usually mean or mad." Not the first impression we had hoped for, but one my wife had warned her teacher of before the start of the school year.

The last thing we want is for our daughter to go through life mad or identifying herself as mean.

I'm sure my daughter will test just fine. When we read together, she seems to pick up pretty quickly on words. She enjoys learning and adding numbers playing the princess iPad game (thanks Matt Gomez for the Twitter recommendation). So our concerns can never be quantified or measured with data.

We want our daughter to be happy. We want her to identify herself as happy and nice. In the years ahead, we want her to make society a better place personally and as a leader professionally. My daughter is a good kid, she just needs further nudges from others to help her down the path of our holistic vision of success.

On Friday I picked my kids up from school. As I was pulling them together I noticed my daughter's kindergarten teacher on both her knees, holding each of her hands, talking to my daughter; both were smiling from ear to ear. Her teacher pulled me to the side and told me how proud she was of her. For ten minutes she went on and on about how she included all of the children in her play, and how happy and nice she was for the duration of the day.

She explained to me how she handled my daughter's sometimes defiant personality. Her educated techniques were thoughtful and exactly what she needed. Equally as impressive is observing her demeanor with the kids as she masterfully builds their emotional intelligence.

We are blessed that Cincinnati Country Day prioritizes a whole child education. They have the means to keep classroom sizes small and are divorced from legislation that takes time and mind space from teachers to consider and tend to the individual needs of children like mine. They consider what kids need and assign them to teachers accordingly.

With that said, nobody is more valuable in her educational experiences than her teacher.

Despite our best efforts, our daughter began the school year looking in the mirror only to see a little five year-old girl who is often mad and mean, which could have been reinforced by a less trained teacher or a teacher in a different position when my daughter introduced herself on the first day of school. That was not the case because of a skillful, caring educator who instantly recognized the need to build my daughter's heart, not just her mind. 

How do you measure or put a price on that?