I have spoken at length about the value of making children feel welcome and heard at their schools, whether they are big kids or little kids, musicians or athletes, math whizzes or brilliant actors. Little kids don’t really care how amazing their cafeteria is, or what kind of turf their football field has, they come to school, and keep coming, because of the relationships they have at that school.
Cole has had the blessing of having the most amazing educators in his little life. At Central, he began his career in Kindergarten with Laura Hance, went to the library with Amy Fairchild, and had his principal, Byron Difani whisk him out of his car every day. He continued in first grade with Paige Akins, whose classroom was decorated like our beloved beach, and second grade with Jessica Mead, both amazing, pivotal women who made him feel so loved, and told him every day how good and how smart he was. They created within him, a “school kid”. When we got the crushing news that our school was closing at the end of the year, and we needed to pick a new school, we simply couldn’t imagine finding that love and acceptance at another school. Where would we go? How would our life look a year from now? I did lots of dinnertime counseling re-directing, (because when your mama is a counselor you get lots of free counseling) and trying to point out the bright side of the story. You know, as parents we have to admit that sometimes circumstances that are out of our control really stink, but it’s up to us as the adults to teach our kids, with our words and example, how to handle those big feelings. And you have to just roll with it most of the time.
The dreaded Open House day came. We got there early to miss some of the crowds, and help him get used to things. Cole got out of the truck, and managed to make it to the EAST classroom (which he had applied for and wanted to be in) and upon snapping at his cute teacher, Mrs. Briley, (I did take him into the hallway afterwards) he broke down and simply cried. He said everyone was so happy, and why did he have to be? It was just a hard stinking time for his little heart. Truth be told I wanted to cry along with him, but it goes back to that adulting thing, where we set the tone for our kids on how to handle situations. In life, you are not always going to get your way, and you are not always going to win. You have to adjust and keep moving forward.
So we started that first day, after me not sleeping a wink the night before, and I anxiously waited to hear about his first day. It turns out his 3rd grade teacher, Miss Amy Strickland, had also been plucked from the heavens. She figured out his love for math early on, and tapped into his neeeeed to help most everyone who crosses his path. He had so many friends from his old school there with him, and he immediately made some new friends who he loves so much. He truly blossomed this year, branching out with new connections, learning how to play chess in GT and laughing his head off every day at recess and lunchtime. He has a great love for recess soccer and zombie tag (I am pretty sure they made that up. I think they should patent it, honestly).
Cole is so secure in his school now, that he pops out of my car every morning (the key is to always get to wonderful Mrs. Jane in the car rider line, her happy face sets the tone for his day most days) and walks into yet another building where he is loved and valued. While we drive by Central with our hands over our hearts (we are so cheesy, but it does help) schools are so much more than the buildings they are in. They are the wonderful people who make up those schools. I prayed so hard for God to guide us where he needed to be, to place good friends in his life, and place him with the teacher(s) he needed to have, and here we are at the end of that third grade journey. Watching your child be upset and feeling helpless is so difficult. But my gosh the rewards that Cole has found this year, and the people he has in his support system kind of blows me away. As a single mama I need a lot of good people in my corner helping me to encourage him and keep him pointed in the right direction.
I have often said that one of the big parts of my life as a counselor is remembering that every child that walks the halls of Batesville High School is someone’s baby, someone’s Cole Keller. Someone lays in bed at night and worries if that child will have someone to eat lunch with, and if they are making friends at school, if they are doing ok on that math test. Some kids, like my own, come to school to laugh with their friends, learn some more math, and see if they can beat their GT teacher at Chess (he can’t). But so many come to school to be loved, to be fed, and to have someone talk to them like they are worth it, and as educators we have to remember that.
Thank you, Eagle Mountain, for a wonderful third grade year for my mini-me. We pray for all of you daily, and hope you get the rest you so richly deserve this summer. XO