A late response to the alarm (followed by an even later breakfast) eventually culminated in a tardy drop-off when I kissed my son goodbye at the door of his preschool classroom.
But seconds later, I would learn that my timing was uncanny. Perfect, even.
Because if my son and I hadn’t been late that morning, I wouldn’t have witnessed the arrival of a school bus transporting special needs children just as I exited the building.
If we hadn’t been late that morning, I wouldn’t have crossed paths with the smiling, up-beat paraprofessional swathed in a thick parka and heavy wool scarf.
And if we hadn’t been late that morning, I wouldn’t have seen the way students genuinely lit up when they saw that this para was there to greet them.
What I saw that morning resonated on a deep level for a couple of reasons.
While I am a writer, yoga instructor, and stay-at-home mom now, one could say that I took the scenic route to get here: I’ve sold everything from water coolers to cosmetics as an account executive; worked as an on-air television news reporter; and served as deputy mayor of my hometown.
But my tenure as a long-term substitute teacher in a SXI classroom (while I studied to obtain my yoga teaching certification at night) was – unequivocally – the most challenging yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
On my first day, I knew that I wanted to be there. But, admittedly, I didn’t know much else.
However, before long, I had learned that when all else failed, SpongeBob Square Pants could always make Tiffany smile; that Darren preferred his macaroni and cheese with ketchup; and that I shouldn’t put Leah’s mittens on until the very last minute because she would always find a way to remove them and fling them across the room.
So the first reason that para struck a chord in me that day was because I know her job is anything but easy.
But I also know that her job is more than just necessary.
It is important.
The second reason was because, as a mother with a child in school, I completely identify with the inherent uncertainty that is part and parcel with separating with your child – particularly one who is very young.
But I’d bet the farm that the mothers of those students getting off the bus that day would be happy to know that when their son or daughter arrived at school, they were made to feel welcome. And they were cared for.
Isn’t that what all parents hope for when we send our kids off every morning?
The para I saw that day had no idea that I was watching her.
But I know that there are teachers, secretaries, and other staff just like her all over our district who value their responsibilities – and their students – all year long.