Normally I don't like it when the house is messy or cluttered.
But when I see that my 7-year-old daughter, Brenna, has once again rearranged the living room, it makes me smile. She has turned the front room of our house into her classroom by moving the furniture, setting up a "rug" area, and bringing in all the little chairs she can find for her "students."
She has piled up my books and taken over my desk, and has paper-clipped stacks of papers, I'm assuming, to be graded at a later time.
She sips from her coffee mug (filled with water), trying to get through some of her paperwork while her students are quietly working. She types on her handmade cardboard laptop, complete with an apple on the cover.
This is the room in our house where the magic happens. Where Brenna loses herself in imagination and can literally play for hours. Sometimes she takes Lila, our puppy, as one of her students and reads to her. This makes me happy, because she is not on her iPod or watching TV.
She is creating, dreaming and imitating. And it speaks volumes about the experiences she has had in school so far.
My teacher's name was Mr. Johnson, and I loved everything about second grade. Reading, writing and making friends.
Having friends that were boys was not yet awkward, and friendships with girls were mostly drama-free. Recess was all about climbing on the monkey bars and the self-conscious worries about what other people might think about me were still a couple of years away. I remember churning butter in class, and then spreading it on Mrs. Johnson's homemade bread.
I also loved to play school -- with my sister, my friends, the neighborhood kids, or by myself. And because I was the bossy type (I like to think of it as developing my leadership qualities), I always insisted on being the teacher.
Brenna has loved second grade just as much as I did, and sometimes when I tuck her into bed at night, after seeing her play and hearing about her day, I ask her, "What does it feel like to be Brenna in second grade?" She tells me it's awesome.
Brenna's teacher had a baby in May, so for the last several weeks of school, she had a substitute. At dinner one night, when we were sharing our highs and lows of the day, Brenna said, "My low is that yesterday was my teacher's last day, because she had her baby. I'm going to miss her. My high is that I love my substitute teacher!"
Great teachers shape, inspire, encourage and expect the best from our kids.
In the elementary years, they spend about as much time with our kids as we do, maybe even more. I would say that the potential impact a teacher can have on a child is limitless. They've given my daughters a love for learning.
For all you teachers out there: Thank you for investing in the lives of our children.
As you take time over the summer to be with your families and recharge your batteries for the coming year, know that there are children everywhere that are playing pretend, imagining that they are the teacher, because when they grow up, they want to be just like you.
• Becky Baudouin is a freelance writer and speaker. She lives in the Northwest suburbs with her husband, Bernie, and their three daughters.