When my son was ready for Kindergarten, I had more than the usual trepidation. Yes, it was a big occasion, that day that we went to register. I joined the legions of mothers who had blazed the trail before me and off we went to the elementary school in our town in preparation for the start of school months later. I knew my child was bright. I thought all kids were pretty smart. I promise you, however, that I did not teach him to read when he was three years old. But, I was about to be labeled as "one of those mothers" for at least the first five minutes of his Kindergarten registration.
It went something like this. The paper had questions that the soon-to-be student would be asked by the soon-to-be-teacher. She would ask either myself or Josh questions that would give everyone on the registration team some background information on the child. He sat down and glanced at the paper on the little table and proceeded to answer the questions before she asked them. Okay, she said....let's just go with it. You just tell me the answers was her mystified response. Next, she asked him to show how well he followed directions. "Josh, I want you to pick up that box, bring it over to that table and then bring it back to me". No response. Total disregard for her direction. "Oh come on, you can do it...it's fun". Then, from the mouth of a well-bred five year old came these exact words: "If it's so much fun, why don't you do it?" I nearly died. She never missed a beat. "Hmmmm. Excuse me, Mrs. Guardino". She exited the room and re-entered with the school psychologist in tow. Both of them conducted the rest of the interview and both of them were beaming.
My child was (and still is) different. It was a few years later, when we had struck up a beautiful friendship with his teacher and her husband, after a momentous year with our child, that she confessed that she had honestly thought that I was the instigator of Josh's early learning and that I had taught him to read. Yeah, right. I was busy nursing a baby, being an Earth Mommy, a card-carrying member of both LaLeche League and Another Mother for Peace. I was also teaching Lamaze classes and baking my own bread while my husband worked six days a week for his little family. I hardly had time to teach a child to read, nor did I actually know how to do that. That's another whole story in itself. This is a story about a teacher, an amazingly brilliant, kind and wonderful teacher who changed the course of our child's education from Day One.
Josh was allowed to be "different". Yes, he could spend his kindergarten hours under her desk. There was very little she could teach him and he had to do his time. She hooked him up with little Jimmy Chin, because he, too, was "different" and together, they spent most of their time. With all of her wisdom, she convinced the principal to do something more extraordinary. Josh was to spend his mornings in her classroom and then, afternoons in a combined first/second grade. This was never before done and it was risky but it was the right thing at the right time. It took a woman with courage and love for a child to stick her neck out and we will never, ever forget that.
Doris Kelley remained a friend of our family. I'm sure there were hundreds of other children and families who grew to love and appreciate her over the years before she retired from teaching. Her warmth, her wit, and her intelligence kept her in our hearts for over forty years. Our son just turned 46 and that Kindergarten registration blazes in my heart as if it happened yesterday.
Doris Kelley left this world late last week. There's a new star in the Universe and it is a bright one.
Rest in peace, Dorie. You made an impact, lady. There will never be anyone like you in our lives.
How can a mother ever say thank you enough? I can't.