“Mom I have a piece of paper and it says something on it from Miss Webber,” Evie announced early in December after I picked her up at aftercare. As it turns out, the Families unit of study first grade was learning about had a family tradition project component. We had all the way to the 20th to complete it and it seemed pretty reasonable as far as family projects go. She had to illustrate and write half a page explaining a family tradition. In addition, she had to make some sort of project to display at school. Baking Christmas cookies was what she chose.
So when I found us busily making sugar cookies from scratch on a Monday night (because I should live in the moment more like my six year old does), I snapped some photos. We only had time to make two trays’ worth so I saved the dough for later in the week figuring I would stay up late and finish them so she could frost them another time. However, a few days later we had a bout of the stomach bug that slowly and deliberately made its way through our house for twelve days.
Just as everyone was getting back to normal this weekend, I realized the project was due Monday. Luckily we had the photos and Evie glued and labeled them on poster board. The writing and illustrating part wasn’t her best work but wasn’t a battle I wasn’t going to fight. We almost forgot the project Monday morning but grabbed it in time on our way out the door. She got it to school and I hoped she had fun showing her classmates when I kissed her goodbye and turned my focus to school myself.
I was in for a surprise though! Since I work at the same school my children attend and have my literacy coaching hours in the morning half of the day, I was in my office when I heard all this happy noise from the cafeteria. We don’t use the cafeteria this year because of the pandemic so this noise was out of place. Curious, I went to see what it was. It was the entire first grade spread out with their projects on display. Parents weren’t invited to this because we have no visitors this year (which also explains why I was so clueless about the importance of the project), but this was the first grade team’s tradition: the big family tradition project reveal! The kids were getting to do it! I entered the cafeteria excitedly and the joy filled me.
Kids were sharing with kids. They were explaining their projects to each other. They were smiling under their masks. Evie found me and hugged me. She showed me her project. Then I had other little friends from the classes I push into for coaching wanting to show me their projects. I was so surprised how they spotted me and pulled me in to see what was important to them. They were excited to have an audience.
Afterward, I thought about how that morning I had seen sending in the project as an item to check off my to do list. In reality, it was pretty substantial. This was the first time any of the first graders had ever shared a project in a big group. Things like this used to happen all the time across grade levels before the pandemic, but those first graders don’t know that….because they were in preschool then. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle as an adult, but to pause and think of what a moment it was, that was incredible.
On our way home from aftercare in the car Monday, Evie told her brother all about what V decorates her Christmas tree with and where M’s family always goes on vacation. Kristopher asked what her friend H’s tradition was. I smiled as I recalled watching Evie skip to her friends’ projects.
This wasn’t just a family tradition project, it was a glimmer of hope in yet another difficult year that one of our school’s traditions had bounced back. I felt grateful for the lucky chance at witnessing this as a teacher mom – it’s the best perk to working in the same school.