Saturday, May 30, 2015

Here Comes the Future....

We had a great time at breakfast and then took upside down pictures. Not that surprising, considering the strange things that always happen when there are multiple gifted students in one place..
It was 1999.  My youngest child was headed to kindergarten, and I'd been a stay at home mom since 1988, when we had moved to Lancaster County.  I had majored in elementary education, graduating a semester early, in December, 1982, hoping to get my foot in the door in a school district. After nearly two years of substituting, I was exhausted at the uncertainty of every "next day," and applied to Reliance Insurance Company -- they were hiring.  So my first full time job was settling bodily injury claims in New York state, from a desk in Pennsylvania.

Honestly, I liked that job a lot, and learned some great skills as I negotiated with attorneys, evaluated medical files, and reconstructed accidents.  More than 25 years later, I still giggle at the boneheaded claims like the guy who thought that just because the RV salesman told him that the vehicle was "so easy to drive that it could drive itself," meant that he could put it on cruise control on the New Jersey Turnpike and go to the back of the vehicle for some shuteye.  ($90,000 retirement investment with 143 miles on it before it was totaled rolling into the gully on the side of the NJT, awakening it's sleepy non-driver).

But teaching was in my heart, and had been since I ran a "nursery school" for four year olds in my backyard when I was eleven.  So I applied for elementary teaching positions in our home district, knowing that the commute would be short, and the summer vacations would align with my own family.  

I didn't get the first job.  Honestly, I can't imagine teaching second grade now, but at the time I was fairly disappointed at the rejection.  Two weeks later, I received a call from the principal at the elementary school, where I had just been elected President of the PTA.  "There's a part time position opening up teaching gifted and talented kids."

I had a gifted kid in my own home.  Other than that, I pretty much knew nothing.

Honestly, it was love at first sight.  I loved the challenge of teaching in weird corners of the school -- in the TV studio at one school, at another I was assigned to teach actually on the stage in the cafe-gym-atorium (my word, not theirs) while lunch was being served on the other side of the curtain.  Elementary gifted education was an adventure, in every sense of the word.   
 

 Today's the Big Day!

In that first class, on the very first day, I met Beth.  A giggly second grader with an obsession for the weather channel that rivaled Al Roker's.  She was loud, she was enthusiastic, and she was always the first to volunteer to try anything new.  That first year we worked through a program known as MARS 2030, where the kids studied space and attempted to design a colony that would be life-sustaining 30 years in the future.    When they graduated, I made jokes about getting together in 2030 for breakfast, and to evaluate whether our colony plans looked anything like the real thing.

Fortunately for me, these friends like having breakfast with members of other generations.  We've continued to meet, at least twice a year, to catch up.  Beth went on to major in elementary education, and even spent a week with me at UCONN at Confratute, where she took a graduate course focused on mathematics for gifted elementary kids.  We had a blast visiting the Frog Bridge in Willimantic, and giggling obsessively, because, well, some things are part of who we are.  (Ironically enough, the photo to the left was taken during a production of HONK!, where Beth played a dancing frog, among other things.)

When I went to her bridal shower last month, the inevitable "how do you know Beth" game was played.  It was amazing to see how many of her good friends to this day met her through her days in the gifted program.

Today Beth gets married.  I'm hoping someone more capable than I is curling her hair.   I can already guarantee I will shed a few tears, as I think back to the girl, who will always be known for her paperclip necklaces and weather channel fascination becomes Mrs. Kent Gable.

The weather is supposed to be sunny, hot, humid, with a chance of thundershowers.  Beth will be in her glory.

Oh, and her email address?  icysnowflake.  (You can't have every kind of weather on a single day in May, even if you wish really, really hard.)  

Maybe she'll take comfort in knowing that the average temperature on Mars is -80 degrees, so somewhere in her world, there may be conditions ripe for icy snowflakes -- if they can find the water -- and that conditions are expected to remain the same through 2030, when she celebrates her fifteenth anniversary.  Who knows, maybe they'll vacation on a distant red planet as a getaway from the kids.

I am a lucky person to have students for more than one year.  Some of them come into my life and never leave, even if they may decide to vacation on Mars.