You were once a tiny vulnerable beating heart. You grew, transformed, learned, and you grew more and more. You probably struggled at some points. I bet you had insecurities, doubts, and fears. Certainly you had dreams. And eventually you expanded and landed in a classroom where you now gaze down upon our children. You carry with you those who came before you, who taught you, who helped you believe that you are worthy of becoming a teacher. You stand now full of responsibility, endowed with trust. You could practically be the sun. You are capable of opening petals of intricate young minds. And like the sun, many of us trust that you’ll adequately meet the needs of our children daily. If lighted and encouraged to unfold, the layers our boys and girls can reveal miraculous souls— people whom we might never know, without your help.
Yet I know parents. Hundreds of them who speak of raising children misunderstood, overlooked, shuffled into little dim corners of school. They are lonely. They’ve got autism, ADHD, Aspergers, anxiety, diabetes, seizure disorders, hearing problems, learning disabilities, or they’re simply shy. I’ve seen boxes checked on IEP forms long enough to swallow the earth, but these simple spaces filled with large Xs, have not found the souls, the strengths, the potential in our children. I’ve sat among rows of teachers and administrators, dressed well, silently sitting at board room tables pens poised to check more boxes while kids roam halls of schools— lost.
I have asked some of these parents what they most want to tell you, and the majority responded with a personal version of the same simple request— speak more, much more of the good in my child, focus on strength, not so much on weakness. Demonstrate how much you believe in my child and you will see him or her soar.
Maybe your classrooms are too crowded, your funds too tight. Maybe you don’t have the support you need. You’re overwhelmed. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that the children who aren’t performing are the problems, and you are not. Maybe you’ve told yourself that the parents are to blame. Or maybe you think that the child sitting alone in the lunchroom simply isn’t your responsibility. He and you (and maybe the entire school) have accepted his isolation.
Maybe you’re already doing all the right things and you wonder how I dare write this post. Who am I, anyway? I am just a mom with a pen. But teachers, somebody has got to say it. You MUST have more to share, with each other, with parents, with more children. More is needed.
You’re not only lecturers, essay readers, math test checkers— you are gardeners of souls. You are the horizon line of our future. Your arms can open wide to the countless shades and sizes of vulnerable seeds, our boys and girls, bad and good teaming inside each body. They come with different foundations, strengths, insecurities, learning challenges, social challenges, medical challenges, financial challenges, family challenges— they are waiting. They are your challenges.
These kids also come with strengths and interests like astronomy and programming and ballet and birds and Minecraft and forts and football. They come with a love for things like undoing machines, asking questions, postulating answers, flinging their bodies into big pillows, creating stories and pictures of sorcerers and fairies. They are your gifts.
You can shed light on interests, ideas, literature, equations, nations, religions, culture, and opinions. You can dig for a child’s best and most unique qualities and speak of them, write about them, plaster them about your classroom, every single day.
You can become a leaping point for questions to spring from, for new ideas to find courage, for relationships to build, for mistakes to land and leap into new seeds of learning experiences.
You can ring a new kind of school bell, that sings loud and clear when it finds a child underserved. See that one who isn’t learning much, isn’t nearly finding his potential? Don’t overlook that! See that one who sits alone too often, that other one who looks so downcast? How can you help? You can reach out to administrators, parents, to engage with a child’s bigger story, to offer assistance, to withhold judgment.
You can weed away loneliness, uncertainty, and lack of self-esteem with hands spilling creative ideas for linking children together, for connecting concepts, for mending differences.
You can ask for help from administrators, aides and tutors if needed, while still ensuring every child in your classroom feels known by you. You will not abandon him or her, you care deeply.
You can dig up weaknesses in children, revealed as essential touch points built into every body, for learning. You can put to work the strength in one child to build up the deficit in another, right there, within your classroom. You can recognize how each member of your forest belongs to the land, the entire team of growing minds.
You can feel how far the light of your labor reaches. It touches not just your classroom, your test scores, your school, but it reaches our community, our challenging world.
Think of it!
You, teacher, could be the sun and the moon shining over a vast sea of opportunity waiting for you this year.
The children, the parents, the young minds, the future wait for you now.