Sometimes Elsa watches the director teaching. Her head gradually tilts sideways and she – as gradually – ceases to move, her entire body stiff.
If you catch her eye at this point she breaks into the widest, sweetest smile – all lips, no teeth, eyes crinkling. “It’s sweet to see someone who loves children that much, isn’t it?” she asks me.
I twitch my nose at her – which, now that I’m writing it, is really a strange form of nonverbal communication, isn’t it? Hmmm . . .
Well, I am, after all, a preschool teacher. We are, as a whole, renowned for dispensing wisdom, being practical, and finger-painting often and well. We are not known for being alluring – and this is rather true. Walk into a room full of teachers and you will see a lot of lumpy figures, mussed hair in outdated cuts and rather wrinkled clothing. You can surmise that no one has time to cut her hair if she has to plan lessons week in, week out. And you can guess how the clothing gets wrinkled. But the round figures – have you ever seen a very young child cry on his teacher’s lap? Those lumpy, dowdy bodies feel the most nurturing to a small body wracked with sobs. They are excellent pillows for careless little elbows trying to find the best spot on a lap. They don’t terrify the sexy moms who think every female is trying to upstage them. Sometimes they’re testaments to lonely nights with a high-calorie meal right before sleeping. Or to a naughty candy habit. Sometimes they’re the result of a large family and a large, delicious dinner.
I could go on, you know, on and on about these gentle, high-energy, self-effacing women that everyone seems to take for granted – except the children.
Whatever you, as an adult, think of the appearance of teachers in general, however you see her – to a child she is a magnificent figure, wreathed in light and love.