Dear Teacher: I Want You to Know What You Mean to My Shy Child

Dear Teacher,

It's the first day of school again, which means we'll be seeing a lot of each other for the next year.

I don't know how much my daughter talks to you during the day -- and when she does talk to you, I'm not sure what she says.

I like to imagine her talking to you through the fists she often balls up and puts in front of her mouth when she's nervous, or "a little bit shy," as she likes to call it. In my mind she tells you a knock-knock joke or gives the answer to a math question she was too hesitant to answer when you asked it to the whole class. Then I see you both smile that wonderful kind of eye-smile that makes the person you're looking at know you really do think it's funny.

Based on what she tells us at home, this could happen a lot or it could happen a little. That is to say, like many little kids, ours doesn't talk too much about what goes on at school. She likes it, we know that much at least, because that's about as much as she tells us.

But I want you to know that even though she doesn't come right out and tell us how much you mean to her, there are some things that are more telling than her rushing a sentence out so that we'll stop bothering her when she's trying to read a book or play a rousing game of "pretend" with her sister. I want you to know these things because I bet ours isn't the only house in which these signs are shown, and because I can't imagine it's always easy to stay up late at night thinking about what to do with a group of 5-year-olds the next morning.

I also want to write these things out because I too am a little shy sometimes, and I don't always tell people what I'd like to say to them face-to-face. So as a dad, as a parent, I want to say thank you for doing what you do.

I definitely want you to know that sometimes she gets up at night, waking from a bad dream, and tells us she misses you. She says she'll be able to see you again in the morning, but she wishes she was in your class at that moment instead of in her bed.

I also want you to know that when she gets to be the special helper for the day, she spends the week in advance holding doors open for us and lining up our family behind her so she can practice. She's very strict with us about the listening rules; she wants to make sure that on her day, she makes things easier for you.

And you should also know that while her "show and tell" item might just look like the same trophy every other person on her team got for playing baseball this summer, hers is a little shinier. Because she spent a month getting it ready to show you when her turn came up. Every morning we have to answer "no" to the question, "Is today 'show and tell' day?" Until finally, we tell her yes and she beams with delight as she giddily places her trophy in an otherwise haphazard backpack.

I really just want you to know what I hope you already know -- that you make an immense impact on the person my child is growing up to be. And she notices that. And so do we.

We'll likely acknowledge this with coffee gift cards and smiley faces in thank-you notes, but that's because we don't know any other way to show how we feel.

And I think most of all, it's important to let you know that the one thing she consistently tells us she wants to be when she grows up is a teacher.


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