Today was Nate's last day of kindergarten. I never got when parents were weepy at the last day of school, or said, "Wow, this year went by so fast." But now I get it. And when I see my friends post about their kids graduating -- from elementary, or middle, or high school -- I want to pat them on the back. It's the parents that do the hard work. OK, the kids studied. Maybe.
I struggled over where to send Nate to school (public v. private). Had a bad start at the school of choice. But nine months later, I have to say I'm pleased with the education that he's gotten. He's reading and has the critical thinking skills of a champ.
I learned too this year, both as a parent and as an occasional teacher. Leading a food and writing workshop for third through fifth graders (with a lot of help from my friends Lindsey and Amy, who taught for me days I was out of town), was a lot of fun. We used food as a device to explore creativity, culminating with our final class earlier in this month.
We made and decorated chocolate covered strawberries and collaborated on a story about how to make said strawberries. Of course I was nervous -- would the chocolate melt properly? Would the kids be excited or think it was lame?
In the end, they had a blast. So did I. Here's what I learned:
1. You don't have to be an expert to make a difference in the life of a kid -- I am not a food writer. But I know that food is the perfect jumping off point to explore language, and it's a common denominator that transcends all backgrounds. We all have to eat. Most of us like to talk about that. The "curriculum" (part of which included writing stories about Justin Bieber meeting a vegetable and Big Al meeting a Coke can) was quite, how shall we say, "improvised." The kids loved it.
2. Showing up is half the battle -- Yet I still struggled with this. The four dates for the classes were set in stone. My work schedule is anything but that. So try as I did to arrange things differently, I had to be out of town for two of the classes. My friends Lindsey and Amy went above and beyond to step in and teach for me. (The students loved them and talked about them all year.)
3. Showing up with chocolate is the other half -- I fretted a lot about the foods we'd use. Chocolate wins. Always.
4. Photographers always get the cool points -- For one session, I brought along a colleague, a talented professional photographer at the magazine. The students thought he was a rock star. The photographers are always the rock stars.
5. Bring lots of wipes. -- And don't forget to enjoy.