Sunday, September 20, 2015

Why Isn't it Just A Song?

It happens every time a football game starts.  Or a basketball game.  Hockey game.  Any competition, really.  Everyone is excited for the fun to begin, and the music starts.  I feel my eyes well up.  I hope people aren't watching me, but at this point in my life, I don't really care.

They're playing our National Anthem.

Now, maybe at this point you're thinking, "Awww.  She really loves America. Isn't that sweet that she's patriotic?" I do enjoy lots of the freedoms afforded me here, but that's not what tugs at my heart. It starts, and I look at that flag, and the thoughts in my head go something like this:

"Oh say can you see?  Yes.  I can see.  I see stars and stripes.  I see the red stripes that remind me of the blood and the limbs lots of young men and women have sacrificed to protect people they love, and people they don't even know.  People like that jerk three rows down who won't even remove his cap to honor the memory of someone's kid that died so he could have the right to say whatever stupid thing comes to his mind.  People like the old guys who served in wars long before these kids on this field were even born, and remember their buddies whose bodies were too destroyed to make the trip home from places like Korea and VietNam.

I see the flag that hung in the room when my own sons pledged to uphold and defend this country of ours with their lives, and I thank GOD with every cell of my being that the ultimate price has not been required of them.  I thank God that Spencer and Jordan and Nick and Jake, Arlea and Adam, and so many others have returned home safely, after travelling again and again to far off lands full of people who wish them harm because of that FLAG and what it stands for.  

I think of my own son, Jordan, playing in the band for troop returns, and how he would play this very song as they unloaded the coffins of those young men and women killed in the line of duty.  I think of Mrs. Little, and Mrs. Polasek, and how devastated they must have been when they received the  news that their sons were gone. I pray for those families.

"Oh say, does that star-spangled Banner yet wave?" Yes.  It does, over the land of the free.  We are free, and it comes at a terrible cost.  As I listen to the song (unable to sing, because I'm way too choked up) I look at the athletes gathered for this sporting event.  These young ladies are getting ready to play volleyball.  How many of them will serve, or have sons and daughters who serve?  What about these fellas on the football field.  This one wants to be a Marine.  I've seen how they defend their quarterback.  I know they understand a team, and know they would protect their battle buddies the same way. I pray for their safety. I pray for safety of their minds, bodies, and souls.

"...And the Home of the Brave."  It may just be two wordy questions posed by Francis Scott Key, but it's so much more than just a song to me.  I am reminded of the many times that flag has been sought after a battle, and the desire of those warriors to return to their home, the home of the brave. I pray they all return to their homes and friends and families.

This is what true bravery looks like:

 "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13)


Thursday, September 17, 2015

To the Parents of the Class of 2028 (Kindergarten)

Dear parents of the new Kindergarten Class,

You did it!  You made it through the first week of your child being a real live school kid! Congratulations!  I know for some of you, this has been the most difficult week of your life (or darn close to it.)  For those of us who work closely with your child, this week has been a challenge of learning new names, and getting to know these awesome kids who will be the graduating class of 2028! (Crazy, right?)

I am not your child's classroom teacher, but I am one of his or her educators.  My title is Paraprofessional.  You can think of us as "accessory players" or "sidekicks" or "hero support".  We do everything from check out library books to assisting in the lunch room to applying bandages and looking for head lice.  We comfort them when they're afraid, and help them learn to solve problems and make good choices.  We also help them learn to read, write, and do math. It's a busy job and I love it. It gives me an inside perspective of what's happening at school. There are a few things I'd like you to know (from the inside track) that you might not realize.

 We KNOW that you have entrusted us with your greatest treasure!
Whether this particular child was one of many, long-awaited, or a total surprise, this is YOUR BABY!  We are fully aware that this child is a piece of you and owns your heart.  We completely understand that they are your reason for getting up in the morning, and the happy thought that allows you to sleep well at night.  We respect that.  We see the amazing-ness of this little person you get to love and raise and call your own.  They are priceless and irreplaceable.  We know this.

We truly want the best for every single child in our school. 
We know that not all children have the same gifts and abilities, but we firmly and completely believe in each child's ability to learn and grow. We believe they are capable and strong.  We expect good things from them. In fact, we insist on it. Kindness isn't on the MEAP test, but it's the most important thing we can teach.  Teachers always have the best interest of the student at heart. It might mean the little guy misses out on a fun activity (if Jr. needs to learn a better choice) but the big picture goal is worth the short term unhappiness. We need to challenge every student to do their best, because...

We LOVE watching your child succeed.
There will come a moment when your child brings a book to me and says, "Mrs. Swager look at me!  C-A-T spells CAT!  I can READ!" This is the reason I come to school! This is my "winning lotto numbers" moment!  When they ask to count the change in my pocket BECAUSE THEY CAN, it is a huge victory and cause for my personal celebration.  My SuperBowl is when the little guy who struggled to hold a pencil properly can now write whole sentences! I love my job because your kid is awesome!

Probably the most important thing you should know is this:      
We call them ours.  
I gave birth to 7 kids, but I have so many more than that.  Every child in that school is my responsibility while I'm there, and I take that very seriously. Trust that I will do everything in my power to help your child become the very best version of himself or herself.  As I said, these children are your treasure, however, they are OUR treasure as well. We care for them and protect them and laugh with them and learn with them for most of their day. We find them dry clothes if they pee their pants.  We hear about the new baby in the family, or grandpa dying.  They share their lives with us. We can't help but love them! They are dear to our hearts, and have very quickly become part of our school family.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your child's life, and thank you for letting him or her be part of mine.  Keep up the good work, and pace yourself.  Only 12 3/4 more years to go until graduation!


Mrs. Swager
Title I & General Ed Paraprofessional
Cafeteria Supervisor