Last year my mom and I worked on a photobook project and, as a result, had spent hours and hours looking through boxes of childhood memories – pictures, report cards, class projects – that were anything from hilarious to sentimental to cute to outright pathetic. We had a good laugh at my brothers’ and my school pictures from the Awkward Years and our silly handmade Valentine’s Day cards. Amidst the scholastic archives we found a wish list that I had contrived in second or third grade. Number three on the list read “I wish I will be able to gradeuate from high school on the first try.” Mom laughed until she cried reading that list, but I knew she wasn’t laughing at me. I knew those tears really meant “I couldn’t be more proud of the beautiful woman that my daughter has become.” Although she might have been thinking, “Thank you, God, that Michelle finally learned to spell ‘graduate’ before she left high school.”
We also stumbled upon my mid-year progress report from kindergarten. Kindergarten and seventh grade have been my strongest academic years to date, so I was looking forward to reading the report. After only half of a school year in her classroom, my kindergarten teacher described me as though she had known me for years…
Michelle has done very well this first half of the school year. She is in the high average reading group, and is one of the better readers in that group. She is using her phonics well enough so that she is able to unlock many words on her own, and those she can’t she remembers once she is told. She handles her seatwork very well. She does her work carefully and neatly, and if she doesn’t understand, she asks for help. Michelle is a child who is really ready for first grade, it is coming to her easily and she is enjoying it.
She is doing equally well in Math. She is remembering her math facts and is not often dependent on a numberline for help. She understands the concepts back of math and does very well at problem solving when something is presented that has to be worked out in a little different way.
Michelle has many friends and often is the one to initiate something and take the leadership. This trait sometimes gets her into trouble as she gets carried away with something that she is doing. She is not so much misbehaving but exuberant. She shows many qualities for leadership and is not easily discouraged in what she is doing.
Michelle is an interesting child, one with lots of potential. Her mind is always working. I have enjoyed Michelle in the classroom and find her a real challenge.
I couldn’t help but fix on the second half of her note. Gets carried away with something that she’s doing. Mind always working. A real challenge. Wow, that’s me.
I looked up “exuberant” in the dictionary. My favorite definitions are “effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic,” “abounding in vitality,” and “extremely joyful and vigorous.” I wonder if I still have the uninhibited enthusiasm that Mrs. Hufman saw in me over twenty-five years ago. A quarter century of life sure can callous the joy and vigor in our hearts…IF we allow it. Oh burdens and cynicisms and hurts of the world, I have to cordially decline your requests to dull my inner child. Failures in my life, I pledge to resist your attempts to squelch the hope and fervor of my inner child – that child with potential. That child who is often the one to initiate something. That child who is not easily discouraged.
Five-year-old Michelle, in some ways you know so much more than what I know today. So go on, show your stuff, Girl. Exuberate!