Friday, May 27, 2011

Blankets for Breast Cancer

One of our Kindergarten teachers has cancer.

Teachers share more of their lives these days. They tell little anecdotes about their lives, stories about their pets, and encourage students to watch their favorite sports teams. It creates an environment where the kids trust their teachers enough to really learn from them. It is certainly a different model than learning through fear of authority--wooden ruler knuckle raps and silently threatening paddles leaning against the chalkboard. It also exposes the kids to aspects of life they might not be currently encountering at home.

And now one of the kindergarten teachers has breast cancer.

In the last five years, we've known teachers who have been pregnant during the school year, whose parents have died, who have taken time off to travel to see their college age children compete in national sports events, who have gotten divorced, who have gotten married, and who have sent their kids off to Kindergarten for the first time. And with the exception of the divorce, these events were celebrated (or mourned) openly with the students. Not in a way that took away from studying, but in a way that enhances it. One teacher gives a weekly written language correction test, and the sentences are specific to the children's lives as well as hers: "yesterday my dog goed to the vets offis", "joe is excited to selebrate his birthday nekst weak" Another teacher leads the school cheerleading team after school, and during the day she teaches her young students their most difficult spelling words by creating memorable cheers. Almost four years later, my daughter still chants A-P-P! R-E-C! I-A! T-E! each time she needs to use that word.

And now, one of the kindergarten teachers has breast cancer, and the whole school is rallying around her.

Every Friday, classes compete to see which has the most 'spirit' as evidenced by the most students wearing the school colors or PTO t-shirts. Once in a while, Friday Spirit Day is themed. On Hawaiian day, the students wear luau shirts. On Crazy Hat Day they sweat under the hats they are normally not allowed to wear. In addition to the usual assortment of spirit clothing this year, the PTO ordered pink t-shirts with breast cancer ribbons and the teacher's name printed across the front. And on the Spirit Day dedicated to the Kindergarten teacher, pink shirted boys and girls filled the playground. The principal and his assistant principal stood outside as they always do, directing traffic and manning the crosswalk. And that day, they proudly wore their bright pink shirts.

But while showing spirit in this way replenishes the spirit, teachers' salaries only go so far. And cancer can be expensive.

So this week there was fundraiser at school, and then a rally at a local fast food restaurant, organized by a couple of the room moms, and attended by nearly the whole school. The restaurant donated 20% of the receipts turned in that night. Outside, the parents had set up a raffle booth, face-painting and crafts.
My humble addition to the raffle was a baby tag blanket and a matching toddler blanket. I used a gorgeous embroidered polar fleece and shiny pink satin. (Is it really satin? Probably not, I'm not a consummate enough sewist to know what it's actually called--I'm talking about that silky shiny satiny stuff that looks like the inside of Superman's cape.)

I enjoyed making it--something straightforward, pretty, and simple enough that it didn't require a pattern. And best of all,  it helped raised money for a really great cause.

Today I got an email from one of the organizers. The little girl who won the blanket in the raffle fell asleep with it and her mother snapped a picture. Her mom says that her daughter named the blanket for the teacher and that she likes to sleep with it. I love that! Like a lot of giving, I gained a lot more than I gave with this small project.


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