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Whose Homework Is This, Anyway?

At the end of last week, Maddie brought
home B Bear, the class bear. He came in his own backpack, with a
full set of clothes and a journal. Maddie is the Beary Special
Student this week, and gets the honor of taking care of B Bear all
week and carrying him everywhere. The week also serves as a
spotlight on Maddie, and every day she gets to reveal a little bit
about herself to the rest of the class. One day she turns in her
journal of her week with B Bear – complete with diary entries
and photos – and one day it’s show and tell time just
for her. On Monday, she had to bring in a poster covered with
pictures of herself, her family and friends.

Let me say in advance that I totally appreciate teachers and what
they do. I heart them in a big way, and consider them professionals
of the highest order – which is why I don’t homeschool
my kids, but leave it up to said professionals. But this poster
thing stressed me out on many levels.

For starters, Maddie’s the first
Beary Special Student of the school year. Which means there was no
poster from a previous kid for me to see and figure out the
“right” way to do this thing. Maddie’s never been
in school, so it’s all new to me, but I know there are
certain expectations out there. I didn’t want to slap
together some hastily-assembled legal-sized poster, only to have
the very next Beary Special Kid come in with some
scrapbooked-within-an-inch-of-its-life full-sized posterboard
complete with holographic images and accompanying soundtrack.

But I had no guide, so I just had to dig in. After a small freakout
involving a panicked late-night phone call to a sympathetic fellow
room mom, who talked me down off my ledge. Just put down the glue
gun – it’ll be ok.

I knew I didn’t want this to be a poster I did all by myself
and pretended Maddie actually created, but I also knew Maddie would
need guidance – I don’t want her feeling ashamed of her
poster down the line, or worried that she didn’t get it
“right”. So I bought a bunch of lovely stickers I knew
she’d like, some stick-on jewels (her latest love), and
filled a folder on the computer with pictures I thought she might
like to use. We sat down on Saturday and sorted through the photos,
and Maddie narrowed them down to the final list. After printing
them all, we were ready.

We laid the posterboard out on a table and arranged all our
favorite pictures to fit. Maddie was in charge of putting the glue
on the photos and I was responsible for attaching the gluey photos
in relatively straight lines. Once all the photos were attached,
Maddie painstakingly laid out her name in pink glitter alphabet
stickers, one letter at a time. I tried hard not to intervene and
let the letters fall where they may, reminding myself that
it’s not perfection we’re after here, but some learning
time and a little fun in the process.

Once the name was finished, Maddie’s creative force was
unleashed. She was (overly in my mind, but it’s not my
poster) liberal with the jewel stickers, placing an amethyst above
each friend’s photo to “show them I love them!”
Then she went back through and attached the (glittery, natch)
butterfly and flower stickers throughout the posters, sometimes in
spots only she could understand. Finally, Maddie drew a small tree
(yes, tree) next to each friend’s picture, for reasons I
never really understood.

I grumbled silently for a good bit of the first time – I want
Maddie to be happy with her work, and spent more time stressing
about it than she did, I’m sure. But as the time went on and
we sat there side by side at our card table, working away in
companionable silence, I grew to really enjoy the project. Cora
wanted so badly to join in that we set up a smaller table for her
with a roll of butcher paper, and she happily went to town with
several sheets of stickers. Maddie said over and over, “I
really like working on posters! I’m having such a good
time!” and I know this was the teachers’ goal all
along. I wrote out her friends’ names under each picture in
pencil, and Maddie proudly traced over it in pink ink, filled with
joy that she can write so well. She loved mastering the
Elmer’s glue and thought long and hard about each sticker

I think the poster turned out really well in the end. It’s
certainly not professional looking, but it’s got a sweetness
to it that’s all Maddie. And while it doesn’t look as
if a four-year-old did the whole thing, she was certainly the one
making all the decisions and my involvement was largely limited to
helping place the photos and restraining her from doing things
she’d regret, like coloring in her friends’ dresses or
something. I was certainly proud of it, and heard she had a
wonderful time telling her friends all about it yesterday before
hanging it on the classroom wall for the year. Yes, it stressed me
out all weekend, and yes, I probably spent more on stickers than I
should have, but I surely loved the time I spent with Maddie on the
creative process.

Now I just have to do the stupid bear journal for Thursday, and
there’s no hiding the fact that it’s not a
four-year-old writing the whole thing out. Do I get extra credit if
I turn it in early?


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