My daughter is in eighth grade now, which means I’ve been a student for nine years. While she and her younger brother have been learning math, science, history, and language arts, I’ve been getting an education in human behavior. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned as a school volunteer:

About Teachers

1. Most teachers won’t recognize how extraordinary your child is. This was a difficult lesson for me, especially given all of the volunteer hours I spent that first year fishing for compliments. I kept expecting the teacher to pull me aside to ask about the aura of light my daughter radiated. The teacher never did. (And now that my daughter is a teenager, her halo has dimmed considerably.)

2. Over time, it becomes a good thing when teachers don’t pull you aside to talk about your child. (See above reference to dimming halo.)

3. The one teacher who does recognize how remarkable your child is will have come to the same conclusion about every other student in the class. My son’s first-grade teacher would email me long, enthusiastic accounts of his creative learning style. I thought I was the only one until I realized all of the other parents were strutting about, too, feeling pretty smug about their kids that year.

4. The ability to find something special in a child reveals less about the child than it does about the person who finds it.

About Kids

5. Some children will bend the truth into knots if doing so will get them an extra Hershey’s Kiss. After counting out five Kisses per child for a math game, several of them swore to me through chocolate-smeared mouths that I gave them only four. The next year, I used dried beans for the counting game. Not a single child asked for more beans.

6. Wrapped chocolate of any sort does not retain its shape when handled by kindergartners (another reason to switch to dried beans).

About Myself

7. It’s wrong to impose your fashion sense on a child-especially on picture day. If a kid wants to wear her eyeglasses, let her. If you try to wrestle them off her face, you’ll make her cry. Similarly, do not try to comb a child’s hair when he tells you his mom already combed his hair that morning. If you persist and lunge toward the kid’s head with the comb, you’ll make him cry.

8. I do something funny with my mouth when I’m addressing children. My son sidled up to me after I gave a presentation to his class and whispered, “Mommy. When you were talking to the kids, you kept doing this.” He opened his mouth halfway, pulled his lips back into a garish smile, and froze the expression on his face. That’s why the kids were so quiet and well-behaved. I’d scared them into silence.

About My Kids

9. Your child will attach herself to you when you volunteer in her classroom. Every time you look down, she will be smiling proudly up at you. In a few more years, that same child will not only have left your side; she also will pointedly ignore you. But that’s OK because…

10. You’ve been showing up at her school for the past nine years, which taught her a lesson she’ll carry with her forever.

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