About fifteen minutes before the pick-up session would begin, one of the worst thunderstorms we've had all summer sprang into action--rain beat down, thunder pounded, and lightning streaked the sky.
When I finally got into the parking lot from the street after about 15 minutes of waiting, I couldn't believe what I saw. One poor school employee had no umbrella or poncho and stood out there in the rain, soaked and directing parent traffic. Two teachers' assistants, with umbrellas that were doing very little to protect these women from the splashing and pounding rain, stood between the cars with their cell phones, typing in kids' names whose parents were in line to let teachers in the building know the order they should organize the kids to hopefully expedite the pick-up. These women were also joyfully handing out, with smiles on their faces, blank sheets of paper for parents to write last names and stick on the windshield to help with future pick-up days.
And then I saw the principal.
I am already a huge fan of the principal; she has battled cancer and was very open and frank about it with parents. During the pandemic, she has done an amazing job to keep communication open and help concerned and anxiety-ridden parents, teachers, and kids. But yesterday, her work ethic and character really stood out when I saw her with an umbrella and a nice dress, running back and forth from staff who were rain-soaked and helping kids into cars to the cafeteria, so she could get the kids and direct them to the staff--and all of this was in her bare feet. The heels from that morning's drop-off were long gone. That's right--she was completely barefoot. A river of water had formed in the parking lot at the curb, so everyone's feet were getting soaked. All of this just brought tears to my eyes, and I felt so lucky for my daughter to go to a school, where they care so much about the kids and the families. They worked harder than any school employee should ever have to, and they did that for the kids and parents.
As a writer, I watched this situation yesterday, and I immediately wanted to write about it. I was deeply touched and wanted to honor these members of the school staff, who are currently under so much stress with pandemic rules and regulations and parents fighting over whether or not their kids should have to wear a mask at school or be vaccinated--and now principals also have staff and bus driver shortages. It's not an easy time to be in education. As a writer, I wanted to find a way to acknowledge this and learn from it.
As a writing teacher, I wondered if I work as hard as that principal was at the rain-soaked pick-up for my own writing students. Do I go out of my way to make sure they feel safe and secure to share their writing, no matter what storms they have weathered? If I haven't been, I want to start.
As a writing mom who doesn't always make it to my own writing projects each day, I'm often down on myself for the lack of progress I make on a manuscript, and sometimes, it's because I chose to do something with my daughter instead. Writing moms are full of so much guilt all the time--for writing, for not writing, for snapping at our kids when we are trying to write, and they interrupt us. But yesterday, watching those teachers I realized: these kids--they're what's important--and they are only this young for a bit. This is my daughter's LAST YEAR OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Every time I start to feel guilty for deciding to watch TV with Katie at night, instead of working on my book, I will remember the sacrifice her principal made that first day of school and get over it.
A lot of you reading this may have a loved one starting a new school year, from preschool to college-aged kids and grandkids. Maybe you work at a school, and so you're actually starting a new school year, too. And a new school year always brings about a need to "get back to business" after the chaos of summer--it's almost like another January 1, only this time, the weather is better and the kids are out of the house.
This post up to this point is trying to say: I'm so lucky my daughter goes to the school she does. That principal and school staff made an impression on me that I wanted to share with you. I did it the best way I know how--with the written word. And I hope that somewhere in this river of words, you're inspired to work hard at your writing dreams, put your family first though, practice some self-care, and if you find yourself in a rainstorm, look for the person who will go barefoot and lead you to safety to help get you out.
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