The Loon Whisperer

by Terry Uhde Otto

Loon Whisperer Photo WIR COLUMN-grayAwesome Mrs. Ostrich…

I believe that all elementary school teachers go to Heaven, and that there is a celestial expressway reserved especially for the ones who teach kindergarten. They are the true warriors of the profession, as far as I’m concerned. I teach college freshmen, which is a breeze compared to the sticky, germy job of teaching kindergarten during cold and flu season. I wouldn’t be able to stand the suspense of knowing that at some point I was going to get barfed on by someone I wasn’t related to. And then, there’s all that sneezing. Can I just say that teaching an entire generation of kindergarteners to sneeze into the crooks of their own arms was pure genius? The college instructors of the world have kindergarten teachers to thank for that. We owe you. Big time.

Do you remember your own kindergarten teacher? I still remember mine. Her name was Mrs. Breault. She had a perm and black cat eye glasses and wore pastel polyester pantsuits and sensible shoes. She read us Dr. Seuss books and let us color with her good smelling pointy crayons everyday. I don’t remember much more about her except that I’m sure that she made kindergarten a fun, safe, place for a round-faced little girl with straight bangs and serious blue eyes who was prone to worrying about such things at the age of six.

When my son began kindergarten, he went full days instead of half days, as I had. We lived in the country so he rode a school bus every day for nearly an hour each way. Some days, he fell asleep on the bus coming home and the older kids would have to wake him up when the bus got to our driveway. He was five. A young five, at that. A lasting memory of mine is standing at our dining room window watching him trudge up the driveway one February afternoon looking as weary as a coal miner and thinking, “I made a mistake. You look exhausted, small boy. You are not ready to ride that big yellow bus to a place full of strangers with so many expectations.”

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