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Tales from the Motherhood: Doling out extra credit to good 'teachers'

I love seeing my children’s faces as they return home on the last day of school, all glowy and filled with relief and joy. I love that high-five moment.

What great teachers they had, this year. I am mindful, too, of all of the other interesting “teachers” who also touch their lives and teach them so much, though not always at school. To my kids’ coaches, extended family, neighbors and friends, you may not realize it, but just by being you, you offer examples of ways of being in the world from which my children get to learn and may even choose to model.

For example, Teresa Muir, Holly’s piano teacher (and mine), makes learning fun with diplomacy, patience, a keen appreciation for individual learning styles and a healthy dose of good humor. Though Holly hasn’t played in several weeks due to a broken finger, she says she really misses it. This “break” has been an interesting litmus-test of her commitment, as it turns out, one that would no doubt waver if Mrs. Muir wasn’t such a good egg.

We encountered a few other teachers at Noah’s recent soccer tournament. The event appeared seamless and well organized, but from the grumpy parents in the parking lot to the grumpy coaches barking snarky comments on the sidelines (not on our own, thank goodness), to their grumpy young charges with their serious game faces and their own snarky exchanges on the field, to their grumpy, foul-mouthed parents on the sidelines (I know, right?), it was one big grump-fest. And not the first I’ve witnessed, unfortunately.  I recall, at one point, wondering why all of these people gather together so often to have this experience. Do they actually enjoy this stuff?

I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony of it all as I gazed across the well coiffed and endless green acres of soccer fields toward the youth detention center looming behind them. Imagine, for a moment, the joy that being allowed to participate in an event such as this might afford those kids and their parents? Noah’s teammate’s celebration of another teammate’s goal, when he took off his jersey and waved it triumphantly (for which he was awarded a yellow-card – but even the referee was smiling at that), was a desperately-needed breath of fresh air. Nice to see those smiles.

Our children are watching. They’re forming impressions and deciding what to make of them, deciding how to be and how not to be. They’re deciding what fits – and what doesn’t. They’re soaking it all in, struggles and all.

In fact, as for the stranger who passed out face-first in the icy street in front of our house during a bitter-cold and snowy evening a few months ago, I thank him, too. After our dog alerted us and we dialed 911, my teenagers couldn’t tear themselves away from the window, and nor did I urge them to. Though we couldn’t hear the words exchanged, I was pleased to see that his civil rights were so obviously being respected by the Batavia police officers and others who responded.

A former psychiatric emergency screener who has witnessed such scenarios before, I could see that, in spite of the icy conditions and dusky hour, care was taken to patiently afford him the opportunity he deserved to try and stand on his own. While that wasn’t possible, then, I wish him well and am hopeful that whatever difficulties gave rise to that moment have eased. My children learned so much from witnessing this part of his struggle, and from the numerous first responders who came to his aid.

Of course, I cannot forget to thank all of my children’s wonderful school teachers, too, including Holly’s sweet literature and language teacher, Cassandra Castro, and her fantastic and fun science teacher, Barbara Buckley. Oh, how we’ll both miss you!

As for Noah, thanks to his world history teacher, John Dryden, not since second grade (OK, since he had Miss Buckley in seventh grade!) has this kid so looked forward to going to school.

Like most children, my kids absolutely blossom when they respect and feel respected by their teachers. Noah’s known some good ones, for sure, but Dryden’s passion for his subject has engaged him in a way I’ve not seen in years.

He may enjoy some of his other subjects and teachers, from time to time, but this semester, what I heard about from the moment he got into car after school until the dog finally pleaded for his walk, was Dryden’s class. I will miss that. I will miss my daily dose of Dryden’s worldview, and the swell in my heart I felt as I watched my son then energetically express his own.

The world’s brimming with good teachers. How lucky we are.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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