I was nervous.
And it wasn’t even me starting school.
Last year, shortly after Arden started first grade. Picking her up after school one day, she told me that her Art teacher was going to a different school and that she was sad. Upon clarification from her teacher, the students weren’t required to have art all the semesters. The Art teacher would be back at their school mid-January. So in the meantime, the kids would have nothing. Arden looked at me so sad. Honestly, the thought of school without it devastated me. I realize that sounds dramatic, but as a kid, that was my life. I LIVED for Art class. Each of my teachers were amazing and I loved them. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without their guidance and encouragement. At that moment, I knew I was going to have to do something.
I approached Arden’s teacher with the idea, which she was all for. Lo and behold, I would also be able to bring Cam. I’d like to mention that her teacher had the patience of a saint. With 3 kids of her own and being in her thirteenth year of teaching, she was so laidback, but firm, we couldn’t have gotten any luckier. I walked into the classroom the first day and Arden’s eyes just shown. She could barely contain her excitement. I, on the other hand, was hugely apprehensive. I’m used to just making things with one kid, not 20. I nervously waited for the students to finish their assignment before I launched into what we were going to do. The room was just buzzing! So many wound up little people, wondering what was happening next. At some point, introductions were made, but the kids paid no mind and simply referred to me as “Arden’s Mom.” A title I’d never thought I’d be so proud of, but has come to completely thrill me to the being of my soul.
And so, for the next 3 months I came in once a week to do projects with the kids in Arden’s class. I had tons of scrap cardstock that I was finally going to put to good use. Most of the other materials I had on hand and the kids already had glue, scissors and markers. While Arden was a whiz at cutting since she was 3, a lot of them still needed practice. I’d make up templates and have some things made ahead of time, while still leaving them to work on the skills they needed.
Some kids were more than happy to follow my basic instruction, but most often than not, their minds and creativity took over. Everytime, they’d swarm around me like baby ducks, asking for assistance or proudly showing off their work. One boy’s paper bag owl puppet, became a Minecraft-type owl complete with a sword for an arm. One kid, instead of making the porcupine out of toothpicks, asked to make Sonic the Hedgehog out of toothpicks. One girl, no matter what the project, always managed to turn it into something with a dragon. I wasn’t an Art teacher and we weren’t technically in Art class, so why not? We had that freedom.
Then there was Cam. In his carseat, he’d either nap or rock himself. He never cried. Maybe because, at all times, at least 1/3 of the class would be out of their seats to play with the baby. Doing silly stuff to get him to smile or try to feed him a bottle. As time went on and he grew, they delighted in seeing the new things he was able to do. The teacher would remind them to get back in their seats and finish. They would, only to be replaced by new kids eager to make the baby laugh.
My time there went swiftly. Once the actual Art teacher was back, I cried. When I would drop off Arden to her classroom in the morning, I’d still have kids asking when I would be back to teach them Art. I was able to come in a few more times after that, for holiday parties or for science experiments, just so we could have an excuse to make things together and play with a baby.
I think of all this as I drop off Arden yesterday and feel a bit sad. I hope I will have some opportunity to come in and work with this new class. To get to know the kids and see some of the returning ones from last year. Just then, I see Arden’s teacher from last year and ask for a hug, which of course, makes everything better.