I went along as a chaperone on a field trip with my wife's fourth grade class the other day. It was part of a local minor league baseball team promotion to help the kid's unwind after a marathon series of testing in Washington state schools called the WASL. There were about 2500 kid's at the game and about 50 adults. It was quite the experience for me. I learned a lot. The main thing was that teachers must have one of the hardest jobs in the world and that they are grossly underpaid.
This has never been a secret to Tess.
It's not that I didn't know that. It was just seeing her in action drove it home. I'm not sure I could do her job at any price. I barely understand and am able to supervise adults. How could I manage 25 fourth graders?
First, it took me awhile to adjust to all of the questions (are you Miss M's husband? are you Mr. H****? are you a stranger? where did Miss M go? why are you here?). Although the kids have followed along with our engagement and marriage, they haven't quite grasped (or accepted) her name change.
I don't think ever, on my busiest day at work, do I expend half the energy that Tess does teaching kids. It's not how I remembered grade school either. I remember sitting at a desk not making a sound with the teacher in the front of the room commanding our attention. Tess' kids sit at tables in teams in a kind of organized chaos that seemed to work fine without regimenting the kids into the classic rows. But I could tell it requires a lot of the teacher to manage such an arrangement.
I think the coolest thing about watching Tess with her students was the genuine affection they had for her. I watched her give out money to the kids who didn't bring any for treats at the game and telling them they could work it off picking up trash at school the following week. I don't remember any of my teachers helping kids with money when I was in grade school. And she did it in a way that didn't embarass them or draw attention to the fact that, in many cases, they didn't have money in the first place to bring to the game.
And I suppose it is a credit to their teacher that these same kids pitched in to raise more than a $1000 for Tsunami victims early this year. One girl in Tess' class brought in $20 of her own money to donate. These are fourth graders mind you. Remember how much $20 was when you were ten? Anyway, Tess asked her if she was sure she wanted to give that much and the little girl said her parents had told her it was her money to do what she wanted with and she wanted to give it to the Tsunami victims.
That's what prompted me to approach the baseball team and ask if they could provide these kids with free game tickets and they generously provided tickets for the entire fourth grade at Tess' school. And as out of place I felt surrounded by hundreds of 10-year olds shrieking gleefully at the slightest provocation, it felt good to see my new wife at work at something she obviously loves to do and does so well.
As for the baseball game, well, our team lost, but I don't think any of Tess' kids noticed or cared. But I think they'll remember the game regardless, and I'm pretty sure they'll always remember Tess.