It was a legitimate question. Throughout my thirty years, I've been called many things (some appropriate to list here, and some not so appropriate). I've been Miss Beidler. I've been Mrs. Waters. And I've been Mrs. Jackson. When my principal asked me that question, I was coming out of retirement, and my divorce had been final in February. I decided on Ms. Jackson.
In my second graders' vast experience with adult women, they were a little confused when they stumbled upon my name in our morning message. ALL of their previous teachers, all TWO of them, had been a Mrs. Something-or-Other.
At the bottom of my morning message that first day with my seven and eight-year-olds, I had signed my letter, "Love, Ms. J."
"Caitlin, I'm not married any more. I'm single. I get to choose my title, and I'm asking you to call me Ms. Jackson or Ms. J."
She was having none of that. "Well, your name is Mrs. Jackson, and I'm going to call you Mrs. Jackson." Whatever. I learned quickly to pick my battles with this little miss.
Fast forward a couple of months into the school year. Most of the kids had agreed to call me Ms. J, and Caitlin even slipped every once in awhile and called me that, too.
Then on October 7, a beautiful bouquet of Gerber daisies arrived at school for me. A small group of children gathered at my desk as I arranged the daisies in the vase.
"Who sent you those?" Caitlin wanted to know.
"Why do you have a boyfriend? Gross. What are you going to do with a boyfriend?"
"Oh, you know, go on dates, take long drives together, go out for dinner," and considering my little tomboy's perspective, I tossed in, "Play games and go in the mountains for hikes."
When the kids started asking about this new man in my life, they wanted to know his name and see his picture.
|The Famous Chuck|
"He has a mustache?" Caitlin asked with an obvious scowl, when she saw Chuck's picture. "That's just disgusting."
The kids finally settled back down at their desks, but their little hands kept shooting into the air to keep the discussion going. They shared their knowledge of boyfriends and dating.
"If a boy asks a girl to marry him, he is her fiançé," one of them piped up.
Ryker's hand went up next. "I know what a fiançé is! It's someone you can go to parties with."
If this relationship moved along as quickly as it began, Chuck and I would have to look for some parties soon, apparently.
As it turns out, we did get engaged. Chuck has become an honorary member of "Ms. J's Second Grade Classroom" on Facebook.
It took some fast talking and explanations to satisfy Nate'squestions about why I was moving to Illinois. "Is Chuck's job more important than yours?" I had to be careful with that one because I knew what he really wanted to know was if I believed teaching our class was important.
When I asked Nate if his mom and dad would want to live apart, he got an impish grin on his face, and said that they would. He seemed to understand a little better after that, but it took awhile for him to stop coming up with alternative plans for Chuck and me.
My students practiced writing open-ended questions so they could interview Chuck during a Google Hangout session.
When we were practicing our questions, the kids learned that we find out more about a person if we ask them a broader question than one that simply requires a yes or no answer. The kids wanted to know his favorite foods, where he lives, and what he likes to do. They asked about his kids, and then he asked them some questions.
|Our Google Hangout with Chuck|
After our Google Hangout session ended, Caitlin said, "What I really wanted to ask Chuck is why he's taking our teacher away." As she walked back to her desk, I just wanted to give her a big hug, but Caitlin isn't much of a hugger. I'll have to settle for a high five on my last day with the kids.
Yes, we've had some tough emotions to get through after the reality set in that I would not be finishing this school year with my littles. Some were grumpy, some were sad, and some seemed remarkably mature about the whole thing. When they found out that their new teacher would be Stacey Roberts, the overall mood of the class improved considerably. She's like a rock star to these kids. I know I'm leaving them in good hands, and it helps lessen the guilt I feel about leaving mid-year.
When Chuck came to visit during the Thanksgiving holiday, we stopped by my classroom before heading to the airport in Salt Lake City so he could read a story to the class.
Some of my children, especially some of my little girls, are very interested in my love life. Brooklyn is constantly drawing wedding cakes, and pictures of Chuck and me as a bride and groom, or as a prince and princess. Dreagan is fascinated with a Christmas story she discovered that included a winter wedding.
Today I noticed Caitlin does actually call me Ms. J now. Hmm...wonder how hard it will be to get a Mrs. B out of her when I come back to visit in February? I'll decide if that battle is worth fighting then; for now, I'm just happy for the progress we've made so far.
I would like to thank all of my second grader's parents for your congratulations and good wishes on our upcoming marriage. You have such wonderful children, and I love them all.
If Chuck weren't such a wonderful man, I would have had a much harder time making my decision to marry him during the middle of the school year, but when you meet him, you'll know I'm making the right decision. I can't wait to be Mrs. Bennorth!