A Child and His Family Over the Years

Children stick with me long after they have left my preschool class.  Perhaps it’s because I have always stuck with them and supported them.

Noah, my former preschooler, was here visiting this past weekend, along with his parents.  He is headed to Iceland, alone, before going to graduate school.  He’s excited.  He’s facing fear and excitement of the unknown.  We had a chance to talk alone.

Noah’s story begins with his dad, a great Navy guy.  In our early morning school drop-off conversations (the best time to connect with parents), Rick the dad realized that he and Hubby must have been in Navy radio contact with each other.  Rick was a destroyer ship guy who connected with the Navy jet flyers, like Hubby.  Our conversation went something like this:

“Rick, you were in the Navy?  Did you fly?”

“No, I was on the best Navy ship, a destroyer.”

“I thought a carrier was the best ship.”

I smiled.  He looked at me crooked.  “You know Navy ships?”

“Well, my husband was in the Navy.  He flew off of carriers.”

“Was he a pilot?”

“No.  He was a RIO.”

And then I told him he flew the F-4 Phantom.  I thought Rick was going to have a heart attack.  He was transported back in time.  We connected.

Stick with me, here.

I took my class to the Shriner’s Circus.  Noah’s older sister Emma was in my class.

Before the circus performance the lights went out and a big American flag was lowered.  I had no idea that would happen, but no worries, I knew exactly what to do- stand tall and proud, put my hand over my heart, and sing our National Anthem.  Everybody knows that… so I thought.  I looked around and saw parents chatting away and children playing.  I was horrified!  I frantically dashed to each child, pulling off their ball caps and putting their little hands over their hearts.  I’m sure I looked like a crazy person.  Yes I was, because this was awful.

It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t know what to do when singing “The Star Spangled Banner”.  My ‘doesn’t-everybody-know-that’  frame of mind switched gears.  This was a teaching moment looking at me right in the face.  Emma to the rescue!  She was the child who knew what to do and showed pride, even at the tender age of four.

Back at school, Emma showed the other children how to sing and how to stand.  It was a start, but not nearly enough.  I asked the children, “What is a star spangled banner?”  No one knew.  How can they learn to sing with pride if they have no idea what they’re singing for?  They needed the backstory, and that is where my teaching took off: emergent curriculum at its best.

Emma’s Dad, Rick, came to school to help the children learn about the American flag.  We learned about Francis Scott Key watching the flag during battle to see who was winning.  We began to sing other patriotic songs.  To this day, “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” are classroom favorites.  Some years ago Milly and the children made a God Bless America quilt that hangs in the Boston Fisher House.  Thank you, Emma, for starting the ball of Patriotism rolling, many years ago.

And now Noah becomes my student.

Noah was the shy one.  He had difficulty saying goodby to Mom and Dad when he arrived at school.  All the hugs and reassurances in the world did little to help Noah.  To make matters worse, he was not alone.  Another little boy had the same struggle, and the two of them together often ignited many tears.

One day I pulled out my Autoharp.  After all, music and singing are a universal pathway to the heart.  In the words of Hans Christian Anderson, “where words fail, music speaks”.  I needed words, as I was failing Noah.  No, I needed music.  And, it worked!  The tears turned to sniffles, and then they stopped.  Noah was fascinated with a real musical instrument.  We sang and sang, and then we sang some more. The Autoharp became part of our daily routine.  Noah was also curious how the strings actually worked.  We discovered high and low sounds, and then we learned about  vibration.  A tuning fork and a dish of water became a favorite science experiment, especially with Noah.

The years rolled on.  I saw Noah and his family every summer at our pool.  Keeping in touch was wonderful.  Noah’s interest in music became a big deal.  He was part of a band, and he wanted to do his high school community service work in my class.  Thank you, Noah, for bringing music into my classroom.  I’m so glad it became a part of your life.

Noah and his big sister Emma

The college years arrived, and as much as Noah loved music (and still does), he was drawn to teaching audiology or speech.  I could tell he had found his avenue, and it had to do with teaching children.  I wanted to burst with pride and excitement.

Last weekend we had our chance to talk alone.  In the middle of the deep conversation about life, Rick had to pass by, and he squeezed my shoulder.  No words needed.

I started the conversation.

“Noah, I’m so proud of you.  When I graduated from college I was scared.  You’re headed off to Iceland – alone!  How do you feel?”

“I’m excited!  My buddy told me about Iceland, then backed out of the trip.  I decided I still wanted to go.  I can tour Europe when I’m older and have the money.  Right now, I want to go to Iceland.”

And then Noah said the words I will never forget:

“I need to see myself in this world.”

My goodness, I need to carve those words into wood.

The evening rolled on.  Storytelling was a highlight.  I reminded Noah that he told the entire preschool class the best ship in the Navy is a destroyer.

Noah, you will see yourself in this world, and you will make a difference.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Expressing words and feelings, Family, Inspiration, Learning About the World, preschool, teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

88 Responses to A Child and His Family Over the Years

  1. What a wonderfully heartwarming story!

  2. willedare says:

    Yet another terrific story from your life as an inspired and inspiring teacher, Jennie! Of course I particularly appreciate this sentence: “After all, music and singing are a universal pathway to the heart.”

  3. beetleypete says:

    A wonderful story of your enduring legacy, and a great quote from Noah that is worth keeping for posterity.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. What great reunions you have, Jennie! Congratulations to this, and it shows former students will never forget their best teachers. Have a nice weekend! xx Michael

  5. beth says:

    this is a wonderful story about connections that hold over time, the impact we have on others, and the importance of continuing to learn and grow with an open mind and heart

  6. Daniel says:

    That was very inspiring. And it’s true. If we as teachers give the students the chance, they will be the best version of themselves. Thanks Jannie

  7. Darlene says:

    It is so wonderful to see these children learn and grow during the year you have them in your class, but even better to see them become young adults ready to take on the world. I love that some are able to keep in touch over the years. It’s like planting a seedling in a forest and seeing it grow into a sturdy tree.

  8. K.L. Hale says:

    “I need to see myself in this world.” Jennie, I love your heart for students and the openness you have for them to teach you as you have taught them. I said a prayer for Noah for his upcoming trip. You’re such an inspiration! God bless you! 💛🥰

  9. srbottch says:

    The fact that students return reflects on the wonderful teaching job you did, Jennie, and continue to do 👍

  10. Ritu says:

    I love this, Jennie 💕

  11. I am sure Noah will love Iceland. My husband and I just returned from a visit there. It’s magnificent. Thanks for sharing his inspiring story. 💕

  12. A great story Jennie, you make such a difference to your kids.

  13. That was heart-warming. I have a few students like that, too.

  14. What a heartwarming success story! I love “I need to see myself in this world.” With virtual reality so prevalent, I can’t help but wonder how many young people see themselves in the real world.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Liz. When Noah said those words, I felt like a bolt of lightning had gone through me. You make a great point. In this virtual reality world, can young people see themselves? Honestly, take away the virtual and it gives young people the ‘big picture’ and an opportunity to see themselves.

  15. Lovely post Jennie and wishing Noah an amazing adventure in Iceland and in the years to come. Sounds like an amazing young man and that is in part to having a great Dad by the sound of it and you as his teacher. ♥

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Sally. Here I am his preschool teacher, and he still wants to hang out and keep in touch. That is very special. Yes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Rick is terrific! His mom, Tracey, is just as wonderful.

  16. you plant seeds of beauty and not weeds

  17. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. My children remember their primary school teachers with affection and are always glad to meet them when they can and talk about the old days 🙂

  18. Best wishes to Noah. Thanks for sharing, Jennie.

  19. quiall says:

    You planted the seeds and how wonderful that you get to see them take root and flourish.

  20. Don Ostertag says:

    He had good roots and now has fine wings.
    Beautiful post, Jennie.

  21. How wonderful!

    I remember seeing my old primary school teacher working in her garden one day, I was walking with my young niece & nephew so I took them over to see her. Her face lit up like it was the best thing in the world to see an old pupil and young kids. We had a good long chat. Sadly, she’s no longer with her, but it was a joy to see how wonderful it was for her to see a former pupil.

  22. Chaya Sheela says:

    Beautiful article.
    I believe in the power of music.
    I played soft music at appropriate times of the day which kept my students focused and relaxed. Most of my young students, especially students with special needs responded to music appreciatively.
    My agitated little ones would sit in the cozy library corner of our classroom with headphones on. Block out the noises that upset them, and listen to soothing music which helped them find their equilibrium.
    “Music is to the soul what words are to the mind.”.”
    Modest Mouse
    Have a great weekend, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      My favorite music quote is by Hans Christian Anderson, “Where words fail, music speaks.” Music is a big part of my classroom and curriculum, much like it was with you. Thank you, Chaya.

  23. petespringerauthor says:

    This post is one of your all-time best, and that’s saying something. You tell Noah’s and his father’s story so well. It is shocking that adults don’t know how to act during the Star Spangled Banner.

    “I need to see myself in this world” are words to live by. I’m excited for Noah even though I’ve never met him. I can feel the pride oozing out of your words, my friend—with good reason!

    Debbie and I will be attending the wedding of one of my former students in September. It doesn’t get much better than this for a couple of sappy old teachers, does it?

    • Jennie says:

      Wow! That’s so nice of you to say, Pete. Coming from you, an ‘all-time best’ post is huge. Thank you!

      When Noah said those words, I felt like I was hit by a bolt of lightening. It felt that powerful. Pride? You bet! He will go far in this world.

      I’m excited for you and Debbie and the upcoming wedding. An invitation like that is a rare treat, and a testament to you! I know you’ll write a fabulous blog post.
      You’re right, it doesn’t get much better than that. I do love being a sappy old teacher. 😀

  24. bosssybabe says:

    How wonderful that you’ve kept in contact with your students, Jennie! This is such a nod to how great of an educator you were! 🙂 You even befriended the parents! You must be so proud of Noah and Emma! 🙂

  25. Carla says:

    I love this story, thanks for sharing it with us, Jennie.

  26. Excellent post, Jennie. You are an amazing and caring teacher to all your students. Why will they forget you.

  27. That’s a lovely tale, Jennie. So many teachers I know have become cynical (maybe they were to start with), but not you – you see the path, don’t you? I reckon you’re a kind of latter-day Mr (or Mrs, of course) Chips!

  28. dgkaye says:

    Lovely to see how your impact on these kids is a gift that keeps on giving. Kudos to Noah! ❤

  29. So cute! I love that you teach kids to be proud of America. Even though America could always use improvement, it is a wonderful place to live.

    • Jennie says:

      I love teaching children a little about America, especially being proud. Yes, we could use improvements, but I’m sure glad to live here.

  30. Jolene says:

    What a beautiful and touching story. I remember your classes Circus experience and how it sparked years of singing and reading, “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land”. Music is indeed a universal pathway to the heart. Let’s keep the tunes flowing.

  31. Dan Antion says:

    That’s a wonderful story, Jennie. You have an ongoing connection with so many young men and women – you have to be the most amazing teacher ever.

  32. mwaikusa says:

    Thank you for sharing

  33. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Weekly – July 29th 2022 – #Reunion Jennie Fitzkee, #Poetrystars Colleen Chesebro, #Communityliving D.G. Kaye, #Raptors Cindy Knoke, #Bears Tofino Photography | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  34. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Weekly – July 29th 2022 – #Reunion Jennie Fitzkee, #Poetrystars Colleen Chesebro, #beefstew Robbie Cheadle, #Communityliving D.G. Kaye, #Raptors Cindy Knoke, #Bears Tofino Photography | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  35. Mchat says:

    Beautiful! Could relate as a teacher

  36. Godbless have a nice day !💕

  37. Guddu Prasad says:

    Truly teachers are like the ships of the future and they are not destroyers.

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