Blessings

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By Pam McComas, beginning school head and associate head of school

The following PamNote appeared in the December 2007 Beginning School Buzz.

Blessings -- that’s what I think about at this time of year. We enjoy so many: healthy children, warm homes, and a school that cares deeply about the well-being of each child. For a long time I have counted Catlin among my blessings.

My connection to Catlin Gabel started long before I came to work here. My son entered kindergarten in 1984, eleven years before I started as Beginning School Head. Like many of you, I was a little rattled by the admissions process. After the visit I remember wincing when he told me that he had drawn the cartoon figure He-Man even though the teacher had asked him to draw a person. Oh dear. Not only did he not follow directions, but now teachers in a fine private school knew that I allowed my son to watch déclassé TV shows! Not the impression I had hoped to make. Happily, he was admitted anyway.

Betsy McCormick was my son’s first teacher and what a great year he had. She helped that rough-and-tumble little boy love school. Later, as an interim kindergarten teacher, I worked alongside Allen Schauffler, a wise colleague. In my professional life, I moved on to do other things. But as a parent, I knew that this school provided something special for children: flexibility and understanding. Peggy McDonnell, lower school music teacher, was stalwart in the face of resistance. My son complained vigorously about having to learn to play the recorder, only to earn a college degree, many years later in – you guessed it – music. (Just goes to show that making predictions about a growing child is iffy at best.) My son Chris was an intense, funny, endearing, hard-to-shift little knucklehead. But he was my little knucklehead. I was crazy about him and yet, even so, I still sometimes felt humbled as a parent. At those times, his teachers offered much needed, much appreciated perspective.

Parenting is challenging and none of us do it perfectly. We all feel confounded and a little guilty from time to time. We start out with idealized images of how we will be as parents, images that bump up against the realities of the children we live with every day -- children who present their own unique personalities, independent ideas, and daily reminders that we are hardly perfect.

One educator put it this way: “We are rescued again and again by love and forgiveness, and by the capacity to laugh at our imperfections, and by the pleasures that come with growth. Thankfully, parents can partner with teachers along the way. Who better to share our parental joy, understand our concerns, and believe wholeheartedly that our children will flourish, each in their unique and surprising ways, and grow into fine people.”

I was buoyed by knowing that teachers saw my son as a delightful, developing person with more than enough plusses to balance out the trickier parts. They saw the best in him and that made all the difference to him and to me. It is my hope that you and your child experience that kind of partnership, care and understanding, just as we did.

I wish the same for every child, everywhere, in the imperfect year ahead.