This last week, I visited 4 of my families, a small part of a caseload with families in which the parents have come from many countries all over the world. Some parents grew up in this county and have never left. Some families are struggling through crises and some are just not making very much money right now. There is incredible diversity even among those that are demographically similar. There is no way to look at the paperwork and know a family. Often before meeting a family, I will form certain assumptions because of past experiences (I try not to, but I can’t help it). Invariably those assumptions will turn out to be either overly simplistic or completely wrong. You really can’t know who people are until you meet them and talk with them and hear them tell their story. Their stories always erase my assumptions, and give me another piece of my ever-growing definition of the word family.
Much of the information I share at each house is the same, but my experiences are very different. At one house a student from last year shouts my name and leaps into my arms almost before I have a chance to catch her and at the end of the visit thinks that she is going home with me. I convince her that she wants to stay at home with some help from her mother. At another visit my last year student did not directly speak to me but smiles and laughs with her sisters while glancing surreptitiously at me as they draw pictures. Finally she gives me a hesitant hug before I leave. On my visits with 2 new students, one stands out on the front porch and looks at me through the window as I talk to his mother, and the other who engages me immediately in conversation, wants to look in the bankers box I bring with me with my home visiting materials inside, and demands that I take off my shoes in the house because that is the rule. He is supremely confident and his mother is a little embarrassed at his brashness, but I assure her that he is a marvelous example of a child with a positive self-image. She wants him to say please and thank you and he does with reminders. Finally he gets bored and goes into the bathroom (His mother tells him to leave the door open) and amuses himself with water play in the sink for the last 10 minutes of my visit. This I say is a good sign that he will do well in my class. He has great initiative and curiosity as well as a desire to connect with adults. He will slide right in and take charge of his education, and I will have to keep up with him. I am looking forward to seeing how all these personalities blend into a learning community. Every year the personalities are different with interesting challenges and wonderful surprises. If I pay attention to them, they will show me what they need, and I will learn how to be their teacher.