Mrs. Karen Jenkins reads a favorite book to her students at her final Mother's Day Tea Party.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a genuine, real-life tea party!! I'm talking real porcelain teapots and tea cups, saucers, sundresses, and wide-brimmed sun hats with loads of colorful flowers!
What? Here in Southeast Missouri swamp country, circa 2015??
Yes, indeed! I learned of this lovely tea party custom about three years ago.
Since that time, I have attended numerous such creative activities in the halls of the tiny Bell City Elementary School, located at the edge of Crowley's Ridge by the railroad tracks, just before the flatland stretches out to Sikeston.
Unlikely location for a tea party? You bet!
However, it turns out that a certain longtime first-grade teacher named Karen Jenkins has been conducting such outlandish activities for most of her 30-year career.
She told me on Friday that this was the 15th year for her Mother's Day Tea Party.
The whole school helps, she says. The project is too much for any one teacher to do, as it involves the transformation of another teacher's classroom into an elegant bistro with round tables, tablecloths and fancy tea sets.
When I got there at one o'clock Friday, May 15, ladies were flocking in like ants! One grandma even wore a wide-brimmed hat!
And, oh, the children!! It does my heart good to see little girls in summer dresses and floral hats, handmade by the teachers and staff! The little boys are decked out in ties, boutineers, and fancy hats.
Each child had written his mother a tribute and fashioned for her a look-alike paper doll!
As I sat there, watching the procession of children, singing, reading, telling their mothers they loved them, I thought, "This is what makes education special."
I recently covered a school board meeting, in which I heard about some of the new regulations with which schools must comply. Ninety-five percent of the students must be present ninety-five percent of the time.
I'll tell you something, people--we aren't going to get kids to love learning and want to come to class if all we do is test them. Testing is the politician's answer to whether schools are "doing a good job."
How would a politician test Karen Jenkins' Mother's Day Tea Party?? How could you measure the educational effect that the event had on each child?
Frankly, I don't think many politicians really, genuinely CARE if schools are "doing a good job."
Just this year, I saw another Missouri legislator who wanted to do away with small schools that had a total enrollment of under 350.
Why, you ask?
Obviously, he felt that a small school education is worthless--and, bottom line, he wants to save money.
Fortunately, his resolution failed. This time. But it'll be back, I guarantee you. Stupid ideas always come back.
Mrs. Karen Jenkins retires this year. I hope and pray that her example has been an inspiration to other teachers to carry the torch and continue to set fires under our children, so that they will learn to love learning!