Monday, April 29, 2013

For All The Teachers

A few weeks ago, Handy Andler and I attended a fundraiser to benefit my machatunim’s* machatenister** who has cancer. Now, I could go off on telling you how seriously broken having to hold a benefit to pay bills for treatment is, but I won’t. I will simply report that it looked like the entire town of Hudson, Wisconsin and then some showed up to support the family. There was table after table of stuff on which one could  “bid” with a prepaid raffle ticket, and some items that were really silent auction items. Handy bid on and won two baking lessons with my machutin***, Marlin, and I am pleased to say I will be taking the lessons alongside Handy. Marlin is state-fair-blue-ribbon-winning baker dude, so this is seriously exciting stuff.

After so much excitement, not to mention extremely dense crowds, Handy and decided to take stroll down Hudson’s picturesque Second Street before we headed back across the Saint Croix River.

We wandered into a place called SEASONS on St. Croix. Gallery and studio combined, Seasons showcased a good number of local artists. There was the usual array of paintings and pottery, but in one corner stood a sculpture that just reached out grabbed me by the collar. It was bright, it was colorful, it was almost angelic….but not quite. More like the goddess Shiva, with lots of arms….each one attached to a child.

My first thought was that it reminded me of Glowy Lowy, Daver’s kindergarten teacher. Kids hanging off her, a seeming multitude of arms…and the hair. Glowy just had to see this because this is exactly how I pictured her.  I asked the gallery owner if she had card with the image and she said she didn’t. I asked permission to photograph the sculpture, assuring her I would not publish the photo without permission from the artist. She said, “Okay.” As Handy lined up the shot, it dawned on me that shot may not be the right word.

This was no ordinary teacher….this teacher was protecting her children. As I started to ask the question, the gallery lady said, “This is a kindergarten teacher….a Sandy Hook kindergarten teacher. " She told me the name of the artist: Barb Bend.

The Kindergarten Teacher by Barb Bend
I ended up trading emails with Ms. Bend, and she provided the high contrast picture you see here. And I got to meet her at the American Crafts Council show in St. Paul. She’s a lovely woman, passionate about her art…which is just wonderful…and passionate about that sculpture. I could not find the words to tell her how greatly moved I was by The Kindergarten Teacher ...who was sitting near the center of her booth, as magnificent as I remembered. I shook her hand and thanked her. She had, in truth, moved my world. 

When I looked at the sculpture that second time, it was so much more obvious: the hair was really a halo; the arms were holding the children back. The children trust her to protect them from the lunatic that had invaded their sacred space: a school, a house of learning, a growing place, a room where they sang and played and dared to adventure. The parents of Sandy Hook sent their children off to school that morning, fully believing that they were sending them someplace where they would be safe. The Kindergarten Teacher didn't just speak to me....she screamed bloody murder at all of us with her serene face and tiny smile. She is Every-Teacher. 

So this blog is dedicated to all the teachers who stand in front of a class, and who would stand in front of their kids if, G-d forbid, it came to that. We don’t treat our teachers very well. We tend to pay them poorly. We expect them to kit out their classrooms on their own dime. We allow class-sizes so large that no one teacher can give each child the time needed to nurture. We expect them to be special ed teachers, ESL teachers, behavioral psychologists, and test-preppers for standardized exams… all at the same time. We know this. They know this, yet there are nutty people everywhere who opt for this profession. They know, going in, they will face parents who don’t understand they need to partner, not undermine, their kids’ teachers. They know, going in, garbage men make more and work shorter hours. They know, going in, that this is a grinding, difficult job yet some inexplicable mental fortitude calls them to march into classrooms day after day fully believing that they can, they will, they must make a difference.  

As the school year comes to a close, take a moment to drop  a note to your kids' teachers if you are a school-parent. Thank them for not just taking them off your hands for a while, but for educating them. These folks are your partners. They are also are capable of being  that which stands between your kids and bodily harm. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
 Buy  bunch of gift cards at Office Max, Target, or wherever you  buy school supplies...
then give them to your kids' teachers. 
Tell them you want to help kit out their classroom for the next school year.

Bonus Tip:  Yiddish Language Lesson
No other language has specific words for the relationship 
between the parents of a bride and groom.
*Machatunim - my son's in-laws; my daughter-in-law's parents are my machatunim
**Machatenister - my daughter-in-law's mother
***Machutin - my daughter-in-law's father
ergo Machatunim's Machatenister - the mother of my daughter-in-law's brother's wife. 


  1. Dear Susan,
    Although you chose not to focus on the ridiculous (non) 'health care' situation in the U.S., after 26 years in this country I am still astounded and puzzled by the way things work/don't work. When I 1st arrived in the U.S., it seemed that you paid 20% of the medical bill on a M/W/F and 80% on T/Th (unless it was a leap year). Best wishes to your machatenister for good health.
    Secondly, thank you so much for your kind words(and for the photo of me with a PERM - yikes!). I often tell the story of the time you asked David what he learned after a year in Kindergarten and his reply was, "Nothing. We just had fun."I could not have asked for a greater compliment (knowing how much David DID learn, that is!). I have an admission, I never truly appreciated how much teachers do until my children became students. When I was in the throes of teaching I knew that I worked hard, but seeing what others did for my children was really eye opening. Thank g-d, I was never in the situation that the Sandy Hook teachers found themselves. They were all truly g-d's gift to the students.
    Thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely article,

  2. Thank you, Susan. I found your website through your funny yet insightful comment on the Gail Collins article.

    ( )

    I am a twenty-something American living abroad. I miss my home, my family, and my state, and I want to go back. I spend a lot of time reading about the circus in Washington and the cruelty imposed to many poor people. In my state, racial tensions have manifested as class wars (and vice-versa). The poor are criminalized and then become criminals, and the cruelty becomes warranted. Many of the South's cities are festering with crime as a result of the austerity measures. My plea to you and those in your generation is to comment not only on the current state of affairs but to remind us that those in charge were not always so ruthless. I do not have the impression, for example, that our livelihoods were always so closely dependent on "growth." Even Republican leaders like Nixon were advocating a health plan at some point in our history. Stories of Americans who boot-strap-lifted their way to the top are actually arrogant in that they don't recognize those that helped them and do more harm than good. While I believe that self-sufficiency is an important rule, it should not override the importance of community or "citizenship."

    I was happy to find your blog and think it would do us good if more people would work to articulate their own opinions, especially on the urgent matters that you have brought to our attention.

    And I look forward to the day when I go back and work as a teacher.

    Warmest regards from Istanbul,

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words; they are greatly appreciated....especially coming from Constantinople.

      The beauty of blogs is that anyone can express an opinion, toss it out into cyberspace, then wait to see if anyone notices or responds. The results, in my case, have been fascinating to say the least.

      Did you know that Wednesday is the 560th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks? I know this because when asked, my husband would always say, "I was born on the 500th anniversary......"

      I don't know if they mark that day on the Turkish calendar...but it is clearly marked on ours, so please have a real Turkish coffee for me. That is just the best way to imbibe!