My daughters, along with most school children in our country, had their first days (pre-school and nursery school, over here!) in late August, and yet today – this Tuesday after Labor Day – still feels to me like the official start of the academic year. The pool has closed, we’ve put away our white sundresses, I’m dreaming more of apple cider donuts than ice cream cones, and we’re settling into our school-year routines. Fall is upon us and we are in an educational frame of mind!
With that mindset, I’m of course thinking about how I can be nurturing my children’s faith formation (always!) and developing rhythms of prayer and blessing for our family life in the nine months ahead. But I’m also thinking about how I as a mother – and we as a family – can bless my children’s school this year.
We often refer to people or circumstances as “a blessing,” whether that be the bus driver who told our scared six-year-old jokes all the way to school, the extended family member who offered a free night of babysitting, or the kind stranger who shared an encouraging word with us as we stood in the grocery store checkout line. We have all been touched by people who are blessings and we strive to be blessings to others, and this year I especially want to be a blessing to my kids’ teachers, classmates, and school as a whole.
Here are a few ways that I’m thinking about doing just that, blessing my children’s school:
Pray for teachers and staff
Our prayers are one of the best ways we can bless the people entrusted with our children’s schooling. We can pray that they be given the gifts of gentleness, knowledge, wisdom and fortitude – for the sake of our children! – and we can also pray for their intentions, their families, and their health. Hey, if there is anyone whom I want to be filled with peace and joy, it’s the people who are bringing me peace and joy by taking good care of my dearest loves.
Ask teachers how to best support them
All teachers need some sort of help because, well, all people could use some sort of help. One way to bless our teachers is to be attentive to providing the kind of help they most desire. Maybe the school’s budget is tight and they could use some donated supplies and snacks. Maybe they need an extra hand with Friday craft projects. Maybe they could use a deep clean of their art cupboards. I'm asking my kids’ teachers how you can support them, and if they say they are fine…I'm asking again!
Learn the names of the kids in the school
There are people for whom every four-year-old girl looks vaguely alike and those for whom it's easy to tell the difference between kids and to learn their names. If you are of the former group, no shade! Names and faces come easily to some and not to others. But since I have the capacity to learn and call my child’s classmates by their names, I'm doing it!
Learn and celebrate the birthdays of teachers
When people remember my birthday, I feel so incredibly loved and valued. And when people give me a card or gift on my birthday, I feel out of this world. We can’t give gifts to everyone we know, but doing something special to acknowledge our children’s teachers (perhaps gifting a pretty notepad or a nice smelling candle) will go a long way to showing them our appreciation and affection.
Be a friendly presence
Who hasn’t used their minutes in the school pick up line to check email on their phone, or respond to unanswered texts?! I’ll be the last person to shame anyone who is getting done what needs to be gotten done, but I do think there is great value in putting our phones away and making ourselves open and available for connection when we are on school grounds. When we are free from distraction and bear an expression of warmth, we open doors for greetings and conversations that contribute to making our children’s school a hospitable and friendly place.
Encourage “blessing behavior” in my children
One of the best ways to bless our children’s teachers and classmates is to help our children be blessings to them. This can include everything from reminding our children to be generous in their thanks – thanking teachers, lunch attendants, and custodians daily – to helping them consider who might be left out of group play, and how to include them. After all, even if we volunteer in the school and do drop off and pick up every day, our children will spend way more time in the school than we will, and so we will go far by guiding them in becoming blessings.
When I look back on my childhood, I think of my parents and siblings and home, yes, but my mind also almost immediately goes to my primary school, my middle school and my high school. The time I spent there shaped me into the person whom I am today, and I have no doubt that the same is true for my children. I want it to be a blessing for them, and I want it to be a blessing for all people there. This year, I’m committed to making myself a part of that blessing!