by Lynn Mandaville
With the onset of autumn in Arizona comes one of our favorite events of any year since we made the big move away from Michigan.
No, it’s not apple picking or cider pressing. We do live in the desert, you know.
It’s Grandparents’ Day at Jack and James’ elementary school!
This was the first one since the end of the pandemic, and we have sorely missed it.
As it is in any school system around the country, this is the annual event in which school administrators and teachers trot out the best of what is being done in our public schools so that grandparents can rest assured that their tax dollars are being responsibly spent.
Besides being treated to seeing the insides of the classrooms, with students’ art projects and the latest and greatest technology, we get to meet a few of our grandchildren’s classmates and their grandparents, as well as each new teacher.
James is now in second grade, so the kids remain in the same room all day. Jack, on the other hand, is now in fourth grade, and he changes classrooms throughout the day according to the subject they’re learning.
Just a brief aside, on the Hancock campus each grade has a small building all its own. These buildings are connected to one another by hallways or passageways and are laid out in a semi-circle that surrounds a beautiful green space for special outdoor activities. Yes, this is a public elementary school.
James is in a class of 20 children. How amazing is that? According to his teacher, it’s not by design, it’s just that in this age group there are simply not that many second-graders. James should get lots of individual attention in a situation like this.
Jack’s class is a little different because of the rotating classes, but on average there are only 20-24 students in any of his sections, so, again, there will be lots of individual attention for each kid in the fourth grade.
(Can this be representative of the national decrease in birth rates we’ve been hearing about?)
I must make mention, though, that among all the other noteworthy things we learned this Grandparents Day, one thing in particular stood out.
After the planned opening remarks made in the media center, one random grandma stood up to make her own unsolicited “public service” announcement.
First, she asked us all of us grandparents to raise our hands if we had attended public schools when we were children.
Almost every one of us did.
Then, this wonderful woman went on to encourage us to be sure, when we receive our mail-in ballots in the next two weeks, to keep in mind our love and support of public education in Arizona when we cast our ballots.
She made no mention of candidates’ names or party affiliations.
She simply urged us to make sure we exercised our privilege and right to vote in the mid-terms, while remembering our commitment to public education, saying “Don’t forget to vote.”
See, in Arizona this is especially important, since there has been an increasing, detrimental diversion of tax dollars from public schools to charter schools through the use of vouchers.
But I digress.
When this grandma spoke — if you’ll indulge the New Age-y vibe of channeling spirits — I felt a sense of hearing a voice from my past, the voice of a Wayland woman named Norma Hudson, whom I used to know and deeply admire.
Some of you may have known Mrs. Hudson as a long-time elementary teacher in Wayland Union Schools. I knew her after she had retired by working and worshipping with her at the United Church of Wayland.
Every year, at the end of each school year, an elderly Norma would stand before the congregation to award Bibles to each member of the current graduating high school class.
After she had congratulated them and told the congregation what each graduate’s plans were for life after high school, she would remind them that each of them was now of voting age, and that they should never take that privilege for granted.
She closed her remarks the same way each and every year, admonishing them, “Don’t forget to vote!”
I felt Norma talking to this assembly of grandparents this morning through that one random grandma.
It was as if Norma herself were here speaking to the grandparents of future Chandler graduates.
No matter who we are, what our heritage is, or what our political leanings may be, she was saying we must never take for granted this gift of one vote for every man and woman over 18 years of age.
On this day, when traditionally we grandparents are seeing what our grandkids are learning, things took a slight twist by reinforcing our own learning about the right to vote in a democratic republic.
In the Ukraine right now, the people know how valuable it is to be able to elect those who will lead them and make important decisions about how their taxes are allocated, and they are fighting for all they are worth to retain that all-too-important right.
It just goes to show you that how our tax money is being spent on public education isn’t just something we roll out once a year in a sort of show-and-tell for the grandmas and grandpas.
There’s an ongoing lesson for all of us that sometimes needs to be reinforced by a random grandma who is spreading the word of Norma Hudson.
Our lesson this Grandparents Day was “Don’t forget to vote!”
P.S. After Norma’s death, when Bibles were presented to the new crop of graduates at United Church, the presenter would, without fail, end the traditional remarks with Norma’s words. As far as I know, these words are still being repeated there!