As educators we can sometimes get so wrapped up in the day-to-day challenges of school that we forget to take the time to think about and appreciate “those kids.”
You know the ones I’m talking about. You’ll likely have one or two in your classroom this year. These children are rarely absent and their daily presence will make an indelible mark on our classrooms.
They will be the kids you remember decades from now when you retire, who innocently and unknowingly etch their names on your heart and spirit forever.
They are not always the smartest kids in our class, or the most popular, the coolest, or the most advantaged. They don’t wear the newest clothes and don’t constantly seek our approval or attention. They are often quiet and unassuming.
Yes, those kids.
These kids are the ones whose smiles come easy and always seem to be 100% genuine. The ones whose possess unbounded joy, whose only worry seems to be what’s for lunch that day.
These are the kids who try their best on everything, and do it sincerely, who sometimes get it, sometimes don’t, but are doing everything in earnest. The ones who are never afraid to ask a silly question or make a mistake because that’s what learning is all about.
These kids are the ones who listen to our stories intently, nodding and smiling and reacting even when they’re a little bored, because they know we appreciate it. They have learned that this small thing makes us more animated and confident. They like to see us smile.
These are the ones who help without being asked to. Who pick up trash from the floor at the end of class and stack books that other students neglected to put up. The ones who jump into action when they see something wrong happening or when there is a friend in need.
The children who are quick to crack a (bad) joke when they see someone who’s sad. The ones who look for the other child sitting alone in the cafeteria. The ones who picks up another student’s dropped book or pencil without hesitation. The ones who intervene when they observe another child being bullied, even a kid they don’t know, by simply grabbing them by the hand and leading them to safety.
The ones who make it a point to talk and listen to their disabled peers, never condescendingly, always as equals – making eye contact, smiling, and giving gentle hugs.
These children are the ones who will spend a few hours drawing you a picture or creating a craft representing one of their favorite things as a holiday gift, because they genuinely want to share their soul and interests with you, knowing material things are quickly forgotten.
These kids are the ones who bring a favorite stuffed animal to give to a classmate as a loving gesture to help the other child through a difficult time. The ones who will buy an extra popcorn on Friday to quietly slip to another child they know doesn’t have the money.
These children are the ones who don’t seem to belong to any cliques or ally with any particular group of friends. They are at ease with everyone. The ones who avoid gossip and speak positively about everyone else. The ones who will tell a peer, “I’m so sorry,” when they’re hurt and really mean it.
The ones who hug you and other classmates without asking and the ones you have to teach, “Hey, not everyone is comfortable getting a hug. You have to ask them first.” Then they hug YOU again.
The children who make us smile at the end of a hard day. The ones we miss when they are not at school for some reason, knowing the day will be a little less bright. The ones we pray will never move and the ones we’ll miss when they move on to the next school.
The ones who unknowingly feed our passion as educators. The ones who give us a reason to get up and go to work everyday. The ones who motivate us and cause us look forward to the start of a new school year, just for the privilege of getting to teach these children one more year.
The children who make it so difficult and heart wrenching for many when it comes time to retire and the frequent justification to give it “one more year.”
The reason we can’t think of anything we would rather do with our life than be a teacher, because we know that nurturing and teaching children is one of the greatest blessings anyone could have.
Yes, THOSE kids!
(p.s. In case you missed it, for a school-wide project last year, teachers at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri, were challenged to tell students how important and appreciated they are, and record it on video. The result was published on YouTube on October 4, 2016. Watch the children’s faces as the teachers speak. If this doesn’t move you emotionally, you need to get a heart, Tin Man. It’s also a strong reminder to all of us to be generous with our appreciations and to value the power of positive words. THESE kids need to know how important they are to us.