It happens every year about this time. At church we have “WEE School Sunday.” W.E.E. stands for Weekday Early Education and the church’s program for 3-year-olds through Kindergarten. The little ones come up on the steps and sing two songs and there are proud parents behind (now cell phone) cameras and Denise up in the choir loft, misty-eyed.
I always said, “You can take the gal out of the preschool, but you can’t take preschool out of the gal.” Many of those who have worked with me since have noted how I used primary colors to decorate, organize and personalize my various office settings. I am also the "safety chairman," keeping dangerous "tools" put away, locked or whatever they should be if young children were around. However, it’s more than that.
|This picture was taken in 1989. These children are all grown|
up now. My neighbor is in the white dress with the red
trim. My daughter is harder to identify.
I alluded to my “preschool” years in “Aging: Together and Separately.” My association with WEE School was not in my life’s plan, but it’s probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. When my daughter was four, I began doing the books as a volunteer. The following year, I bartered for her schooling with my services. By the third year, I was a paid employee. I went from “bookkeeper” to “business manager,” which fundamentally is about decision-making and creating and implementing a budget. It’s ALL bookkeeping!
Even though I was not a teacher, nor did I have the direct involvement with the children, I WAS involved with the children! I got to know whole families. I have watched them grow up.
And, every year on WEE School Sunday, I get to watch them again, and I get to mourn the fact that I am not doing this day-to-day anymore.
I left because our family budget needed a better income. No one teaches pre-school (or as I was, in administration and support) for the money! I moved on to another job, but was able to come back to a Christmas program. At that program, I ended up in the back of the room swaying with a three-month-old so her mother could enjoy the performance of her older brothers; and the pastor at the time was standing next to me. After a few minutes he said, “Denise, I just realized that you aren’t supposed to be here!” I guess I was kind of like the furniture.
These were great years. We built the school from three classes of 8, to 7 classes with a total enrollment of 108. I have no idea how many individual children, and families, that I worked with. I couldn’t even tell you how many employees I worked with. I worked under three pastors, two ministers of education and three directors. The last one is still my very close friend today. She knows me on several levels and is a close confidante. When I want a hard and truthful answer, I go to her.
Vocationally, it was not lucrative, but they were the happiest years of my working life. I loved the kids, I loved my staff and I loved the staff of the church. In ten years, there were plenty of changes, the biggest one being that of documentation of everything! I guess I could have called that job security, because it’s what I did. The other big change I notice as I reflect on these years is that of going from a very simple school, changing curriculum and making corresponding changes to add many programs and “events” to teach this new curriculum. It became more complicated and the support became more complicated.
So I have watched the kids grow up. One boy and girl were “close friends” in preschool and we always said they were going to be the football star and head cheerleader! Although they attended different schools, we called that one! (They don’t even know this!) My oldest alumni are 30-31 and the youngest are 19-20. One of my daughter’s classmates is now my neighbor!
I miss those days, and I probably could not keep up with them today, but it sure makes me wonder if there is an opening for an aide this next school year.