My Preschooler, Then and Now


Then

Now

I love all my students.  Sometimes students ‘stick’ with me for a while, returning to visit and be a guest reader.  Sometimes students stick around for a long time, visiting the classroom, and then including me in their events.  Sometimes it is even deeper.  That’s when students become friends.

Wesley was my preschooler.  He had a difficult time saying goodbye to his mom and dad in the morning.  His motto was “one o’clock”, knowing that was the time mom and dad would pick him up at school.  He held up his pointer finger to reinforce one o’clock, and to give himself reassurance.  I responded in kind, holding up my finger  and saying, “Yes, one o’clock.”

Once the school year was underway, Wesley was an eager beaver.  Young children are far more resilient than adults.  They adjust and bounce back more quickly than we do.  Wesley loved books and hands-on activities.  Using hand tools was a favorite.

He loved singing, especially patriotic songs.  He belted out “God Bless America” whenever I played it on the autoharp.  The Big Book Atlas was always interesting to Wesley.  When we learned about other countries and history, he was ‘there’.  His preschool years were fun and formative.  Wesley blossomed!

Years passed, yet Wesley visited the classroom.  Often.  He enjoyed returning to his roots.  I always made a big fuss, and that made him smile, big time.

I was invited to one of his high school football games.  Friday night lights.  That was fun!

Wesley became a scholar student, and a Civil War buff.  History and the military were important to him.  He participated in reenactments, and studied history.  In high school he knew more about history – ancient and recent – than I did.  He was the teacher and I was the student.

I was honored to be invited to his Eagle Scout award ceremony.  To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout is a long and hard journey, and few scouts make it.  Did you know there is only one group where every member is an Eagle Scout?  One.  It’s the astronauts who first landed on the moon.  Yes, every astronaut was an Eagle Scout.

Here’s the story that connects Wesley the preschooler to becoming an Eagle Scout:

It happened like this…

When Wesley was in my preschool class, his favorite toy was a large castle.  He was obsessed with that castle.  He begged his mom and dad to buy him one.  He cried when they said, “No.”  So, I often had the castle available for Wesley to play with.  He never tired of this toy.  Never.

Fast forward ten years.  Every so often teachers do a major clean-out of our school’s attic.  Yes, there was the castle stored away in a far corner.  It was designated for the trash, as it was “well loved.”

“Wait!  You can’t throw out that castle!”

“It’s broken in spots and has some sharp edges.  It’s gotta go.”

“I’ll take it.”

And I did.  It went to my basement.  My grandchildren loved playing with it when they visited.  In the back of my mind I was saving the castle for Wesley.  It would make a perfect graduation present.

Four years passed, and I got the invitation to his graduation.  The event was outdoors at the new football field, so bringing along this gigantic castle was not an option.  As I pondered the best way to deliver the gift, I received an invitation to his Eagle Scout ceremony, at the local church.  There would be a reception afterwards, downstairs in the church reception hall.

I could make this work!

My husband and I arrived early, and I slipped downstairs to put the castle in the kitchen.  It was wrapped in a huge black trash bag, covered with bows and ribbons.  Done!

When the ceremony was over we all headed downstairs for the reception.  After many hugs and best wishes and congratulations, I said, “Wesley, I have something for you.  Can you get your mom and dad?”  He looked confused as I dragged out this large trash bag.  It stirred much curiosity to those close by, so there was a group looking on as Wesley opened the bag.

“The castle!  It’s the castle!!
I remember this.  I loved this castle.  How did you get it?”

And I told him the story of rescuing it from the attic years ago, and saving it for him.  His mom cried.  His dad thought surely this wasn’t THE one.  Wesley couldn’t stop touching.  He was beside himself.  Of course we all had to relive the story of the castle when he was a preschooler.

It was wonderful.

When Wesley started in college, Hubby and I began a tradition of taking him out to dinner every summer.  He talked… oh, how he talked.  There was so much he had to think about, so many changes, so many new experiences.  I was the listener and the supporter.  The tables had turned, and once again I was much like his old preschool teacher.

Being a teacher means being a good listener.
Your students need someone to care and listen.
Yes, it’s that simple.  Yes, it makes all the difference.

Wesley changed colleges, and for good reasons.  I listened and supported him.  Every summer had great experiences.  This past summer he was a student at Oxford University, New College.  What a wonderful experience!  Wesley was excited to talk about his professors, what he had learned, and of course his experiences.  It was a long (very long) and wonderful talk.  There was so much to tell.  I listened!

I look forward to our dinner every summer.

Jennie

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, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Student alumni, Teaching young children and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to My Preschooler, Then and Now

  1. This is just such a wonderful story!! What an amazing present to have given him. How thoughtful of you to have done this. There are plenty of stories about bad teachers in the news. THESE are the stories that should make headlines. You are the teacher that every teacher should strive to be like.

  2. I have shared this on my Facebook page. I hope my teacher friends share it as well!

  3. beth says:

    This is so wonderful and it gave me chills! The connections are truly forever –

  4. beetleypete says:

    I remember Wesley’s story so well. I used a photo you sent me of that castle for this story. https://beetleypete.com/2020/02/22/photo-prompt-story-kevins-karsull/
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, I remember! I’m so glad we have a summer tradition of catching up. Every year is a new and exciting adventure, and I feel lucky to share that with him.

  5. joylennick says:

    What a truly heart-warming story, Jenny! You’re like one of his family…xx

  6. Thank you for sharing Wesley’s heartwarming story! It goes to show what good teachers are made of!!

  7. This is just the bees knees Jennie, brought a tear to my eye.

  8. I love seeing my students again. Great to have photos.

  9. he is part of your legacy Jennie!

  10. Don Ostertag says:

    Warm tangible reminders of your great work as a keystone to opening up the world to the small ones.

  11. A wonderful story, Jennie. As an Eagle Scout, I know what it means to get there and Wesley is to be congratulated. He will do well in this world for sure. You should be proud of the influence you had on this child.

    • Jennie says:

      I have been to two Eagle Scout ceremonies, and I quickly learned and appreciated the enormous effort it took to achieve that rank. I also learned how few scouts reach that level. At both events, the Scoutmaster asked everyone in the audience who was an Eagle Scout to stand up. Of course there were few, and you could have heard a pin drop. What a moment. The closest thing I can recall is being at an event where the Marine Hymn was played and witnessing a small handful of men standing up in attention and respect.

      Thank you, John! Yes, Wesley will do very well in this world, and I am very proud.

  12. quiall says:

    You helped a boy to become a man and he help you to grow. What a wonderful story.

  13. johnrieber says:

    I love this post…thank you for sharing…giving advice is important, but so is listening to someone to understand what they are going through as well and providing support…bravo to you

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, John. Listening is huge and makes a big connection, from preschoolers to adults. Honestly, I wish people could listen and not talk. Really. That in itself is support.

  14. Darlene says:

    I love this story so much. So many people think that teachers just have the children for one year and then forget about them. It is evident that this is not always the case. So glad the castle was rescued. I can see why he loved it.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Darlene! You are right that many people’s perception of teachers is they have children for one year and that’s it. I’m so glad it’s not always the case. 🙂 The rescued castle is one of my fondest memories, and one of his, too.

  15. Karen Beger says:

    Tears. Yes, I’m privileged to know we do indeed make a difference.
    Thanks for this lovely reminder. 💕

  16. seegogga says:

    Every now and then you find a truely exeptional teacher who is fondly remembered by most pupils. You are such a teacher. Thank you for the difference you make in your pupil’s lives.

  17. Wonderful story, Jennie! Thanks for all you to encourage and support students and for those lasting impressions that never fade.

  18. Elizabeth says:

    I miss running into my old students and going to their gallery openings since we moved across the country. I loved reading the way you are able to stay connected to this one!

  19. OH WOW…… The LOVE just continues to FLOW….. Loved this…. Brought tears to my eyes Jennie.. Thank you for sharing past and present.. WHAT A GIFT… ❤

  20. Wonderful, as usual Jennie. Love your tales of pupils you have known. I hope Wesley got out and about to see a few castles when he was studying at Oxford. Also, New College is pretty old from memory – founded in the 14thC? Central Oxford is such a lovely place.

  21. lbeth1950 says:

    Thanks for wonderful story

  22. There aren’t enough hearts for how much I love this! ♥️🤍💙🧡❤️💚🖤💕💞🤎💘💝💓💟💗💛💜💖😻💌💑

  23. petespringerauthor says:

    You know I would love this. I call these the delayed rewards of teaching. How could I not remember that Wesley was the Eagle scout you wrote about before? That’s why his name was so familiar to me. How cool that she has shared the highlights of his life with you. Meeting for lunch each year shows how special you were to each other.

    Next weekend, Debbie and I will attend the wedding of one of my former 3rd graders. Much like you, I’ve already been thinking about the blog post I’m going to write.

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Pete. I knew you would love this! Yes, these are the delayed rewards of teaching. I so look forward to our summer dinner date each year. He will be applying to grad school at Oxford next month. I can’t believe he is graduating this year.
      Time flies!

      I’m really excited for you and Debbie attending your former 3rd grader’s wedding. I know you are already beginning to write a blog post in your head. Happy weekend to you, my friend.

  24. TanGental says:

    You really are something else, you know. Glad he enjoyed Oxford.

    • Jennie says:

      Awww… 🥰 Thank you, Geoff. He was over the moon about Oxford. What a difference in the structure of their many colleges and how they approach teaching- no classrooms! He will be applying to attend graduate school there.

  25. K.L. Hale says:

    This brought tears to my eyes, Ms. Jennie. The connections made in teaching is unlike many professions. You are a gift to this profession; and humanity. The smiles on you and Wesley’s faces say it all. And the castle! Oh my! More tears! 💛💛💛

  26. Ally Bean says:

    A touching story that makes me smile. I like young Wesley’s motto, “one o’clock.” A pragmatic little dude then, a lovely grown man now. And the castle? That’s amazing.

  27. Jim Borden says:

    wow – what a beautiful story. what a wonderful relationship you create with all of your students, and how lucky for both you and the student when some of those relationships become long term. I wish Wesley the best as he moves forward with his life. How impressive to have gone to Oxford!

    • Jennie says:

      Well said, Jim. You hit the nail on the head. It’s very special when those relationships develop. It was fascinating to learn about Oxford. No classrooms! Each college within the university has its own library and pub. Students read and study their heads off, and write. Then, they meet with their professor for in-depth discussions. Wesley says it’s very hard, and the system is more like grad school. He loved it, is back to Gettysburg for his final year, and then will apply to Oxford for graduate school.

      I wanted to include a photo of him and his buddies at a formal event- dressed in tails, no less- but I didn’t have photo permission from the other students.

  28. Dan Antion says:

    Every one of your stories is full of love and respect, Jennie. You have helped so many children become wonderful adults.

  29. Chel Owens says:

    I love visiting my teachers, and did so all throughout my junior high and high school years. I’ve called a few of them on the phone to reconnect. This story brought happy tears to my eyes, Jennie. How sweet of you to save him the castle.

    • Jennie says:

      You are wonderful for doing that with your teachers. A thank you and a remembrance goes a long way! I’m glad this brought you happy memories. Thank you!

  30. A proud teacher. Well deserved, Jennie! Keep on building a better future! Best wishes, Michael

  31. riyab82 says:

    Loved reading this. The bond between a teacher and a student is always special, and lives forever especially if you are *that* special teacher whose duty is not just to teach….. and you have obviously been that teacher for Wesley and for others as well, I’m sure.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you! Your words certainly resonate with me. That bond happens at small and unexpected moments. And yes, there are many other Wesleys I have taught. I am a lucky and very grateful teacher.

  32. I remember you talking about him before, if I’m not mistaken. I love this and this is why you are an exceptional teacher of all ages. You truly connect. It’s wonderful that you get to stay in touch. For both of you. Thanks for sharing more of his story.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Marlene. Yes, I’ve talked about him before. Connecting is what makes makes teaching (the teacher) and learning (the student) joyful.

  33. srbottch says:

    It’s no doubt, Jennie, that you’ll be marking your calendar for more special events in Wesley’s life. Nice work, Jennie.

  34. This is so cool! I’m thrilled you kept the castle and gave it to him and was happy to have it! 💕

  35. dgkaye says:

    Just beautiful. You are a legend in your student’s memories. ❤

  36. Pingback: The A to Z Of Life | TanGental

  37. Just beautiful-what a beloved gift. No one could top that!

  38. bosssybabe says:

    What a beautiful relationship you have with Wesley! That’s so touching, especially today, on Charlotte’s first day of kindergarten. I cried a bit saying goodbye but I knew she was in good hands, hopefully with teachers much like yourself, who care so deeply about their students!! Loved reading this! 💕💕

    • Jennie says:

      My goodness, what a special day for you and for Charlotte! I’m sure she was in great teacher hands. On the flip side, the teacher side, it has been a week of tears and bonding. I am writing that blog post in my head, the little moments that make all the difference, how we became a family in only a few days…etc. It is as wonderful and exciting for the teacher as it is for the child. I just wish teachers would tell parents. Thank you, Jen. I’m so glad you liked reading about Wesley. 😍

  39. Suzanne says:

    I popped over to yours from Geoff – Tangental’s blog and was so pleased that I did.
    Your post shows how much teachers go that extra mile or, in your case, a marathon to show how meaningful that child and teacher relationship is. As everyone mentioned, it was a beautiful story.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Suzanne. Yes, teachers go the extra mile, and that is a labor of love. This is the first week of school, and I’m already connecting with children. Those relationships mean everything.

      • Suzanne says:

        I was a preschool teacher many years ago, though never had the opportunity of seeing them reach graduation stage as we moved. Enjoy your new year and children.

      • Jennie says:

        I think teaching preschool is a ‘calling’. I’m glad you had that experience. Thanks for your good wishes, Suzanne.

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