Children are good at teaching us what to look for . . . what to notice . . . how to be aware of the world around us. They are observant. Their memories are wonderfully accurate. They astonish us with statements we don't expect. They encourage us with little smiles . . . reach out to us with little hands.
We are fortunate to know them.
My Aunt Sally has been pouring encouragement into my heart since I was a very small child. Since before I can remember.
Children have always been drawn to her. I believe it's because she really sees them. I know that my own feeling as a child was that she saw me and knew me . . . and wanted to know more about me. I felt special in her presence. That's a big deal.
When my sister and I were young we coveted our time with her (we still do). She would imagine with us . . . take time to really play whatever we wanted to play. And sometimes I'm sure she'd rather not have been playing our games . . . but she did it anyway . . . and we still talk about it. It left an impression.
I tell you all of this because a few weeks ago I had a conversation with her about the beginning of this new school year. She is a teacher, too. Over the past several years I've come to appreciate her words about the profession . . . but more than that, her words about children.
She told me about some advice once given to her. She said that more than anything we need to try to be the person whose face lights up whenever a child walks through the door.
Did you get that?
Part of our job is to be the one whose face lights up when a child walks through the door.
Even that student on that day.
I can feel the weight of this responsibility on my shoulders as I walk into the building every morning - what I do has a profound effect on the hearts of the ones I serve.
Let's not pretend that this is just another job. It isn't. It couldn't be even if you wanted it to. It's consuming in every way. On any given evening my head and heart are full of the words sung and spoken by over 500 students . . . sometimes over 800 students.
The other day I stood at the back door of my classroom, singing to kids as they walked into the hallway, back to class with their teacher. I was singing, "I've got a home in Tennessee, it's the place I'd like to be . . ." and a child stopped. He looked up at me and said, "You actually made my day a little bit better."
I stopped singing.
I stood aside with him and asked how his day had been before music class. He told me. And I thought, "This is why it matters."
This is why it's important for me to remember that what I do is for children, not for adults.
What I do is for the benefit of my students, for them to learn the enjoyment and love of life, not for my own status or professional standing.
What I am called to do in this situation is pour encouragement into my students the same way my Aunt Sally did for me . . . to be the one whose face lights up when they walk through my door . . . to play games with them . . . to share music with them.
A long time ago I stood in a classroom with a dirt floor, listening to the stories of women who walk miles to reach their students every day and then do the best they can with what they have. Of course, I didn't know then what I know now - that teaching would be my place, too. But I did take note of the joy they had for their students . . . the way they pushed past the obstacles around them and gave their time and energy to these kids, tucked away in this backwoods school in a third world country . . . in a town nobody's ever heard of. They were making a difference.
We grown ups have become old in our hearts. Do you ever feel it? We have turned away from our sense of wonder. We have given up our joy in bending and stretching. We become inflexible and disinterested. It's easy for us to do.
When I stop myself in time to really look at my students and really hear them, I recover my ability to be amazed. Children can teach us that.
And when I really look at them and really hear them, I can't help but smile . . . and when I smile, I know it makes all the difference.
Remember, teachers - the paperwork piles up and the grown-up mess can surround us, but we aren't doing our work because of all that. We're doing it because of children. We're doing it for children. And we have the power to show them that they matter - to make their days better - to light up for them and show them that their very presence gives us joy. Make it count.
Peace & Goodness,