Christina M. Currie: Last impressions count

The teachers at Nikki's preschool do home visits. The point is to interact with children in their own environments, showing an interest in them as a whole child and not just a student.

Some say it's just a chance for teachers to check out their students' home environment.

I don't believe that, but just in case, I stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before cleaning. I pulled the knobs off the stove and soaked them. I polished and scrubbed and even shampooed, certain I could convince our guests that this is how we live.

Yeah, like they believe a woman with a full-time job and two small children has not a speck of lint on her carpet and that a 4-year-old and 5-year-old keep the books on their shelves arranged by height.

I'm not sure I fooled anyone, but I couldn't stand the thought of welcoming school representatives to my home by guiding them through the maze of toys, half-finished juice boxes and assorted laundry, to a table covered with markers and markings and bits of last night's dinner.

The girls didn't care why they had guests. They were just thrilled they were there. Not much has them jumping out of bed the second I sing "rise and shine." But that did.

When Nikki's two teachers arrived, the girls had to show them their bedroom (thank God, that was the first room I worked on) and all of their toys. It was like show-and-tell at home.

The teachers brought Crayons and activities for Nikki, partly to show me her progress and partly to assess whether she's more responsive at home or at school.

I pray that she's more responsive at school, because if she always answers questions the way she did that day, I've got some big issues to deal with.

Then again, it's not often she's asked to recite her address in front of an engrossed audience.

I discovered the polka dotted, lopsided spiders she draws are considered, by those in the know, advanced -- or at least above average -- for her age. Evidently the spiders are people with the correct number of appendages and the right facial features.

It was good that I learned about her skill before the Q&A session started. Even with her sister whispering the answers, Nikki couldn't remember how old she is, her phone number or what kind of food she likes. We even practiced some of those very questions the night before. Katie couldn't resist butting in when Nikki couldn't think of all the people she loves. Katie listed everyone she knows from family to neighbors with one exception --e.

Even when I turned her face, looked her straight in the eye and said "Do you see anyone you love?" she answered with a vague "No."

Talk about always hurting the ones you love.

The visit drew to a close, and one of the teachers dislodged the dog (who was as excited to have visitors as the girls were) from between her feet, and he promptly threw up.

Yep, that's home. I did all that cleaning and scrubbing and preparing and they still got a true picture of Nikki's home life.

With any luck, a good first impression will blot out the last impression.

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