We are now in the second week of 31 Days of My People, and I have never been more excited about a writing project! If you missed any part of the series, check it out here.
I have an important file in my classroom filing cabinet. The words in bold, black Sharpie label its contents: WHY I DO THIS
This file is SO very necessary. Because some days as a teacher, the paperwork and the meetings and the mandates and the people in offices somewhere who try to tell you how to do your job… It’s all just too much. And you feel like quitting. And you wonder if you can really make any difference at all.
Those are the days I open that file. I leaf through photographs of previous years’ classes. I laugh at silly drawings that students have created for me. I read and re-read notes from parents thanking me for making a difference in their child’s world: He loves to read now! She’s never been more confident. He comes home every day excited to tell me about school. Thank you for caring not only about my child, but about our whole family.
This is the stuff. THIS is why I became a teacher. Because I’m a bleeding-heart true believer. I think it’s the most important job in the universe. No matter what else goes wrong, these reminders tell me that I really am making a difference. These children matter. And I matter to them. These are My People. My kiddos.
The directions were: Write a sentence for the word “I’ll”
In case you’re not able to decipher 7-year old writing, this little guy just wrote a sentence, using his best encoding abilities, stating “I’ll be moving to the family shelter on the next month.”
Just let that sit there with you for a second.
This was written one week ago, on the last day of September. So “on the next month” means right now.
Right now, a little boy in my classroom is living in a shelter with his family.
Another kiddo is being raised by her grandparents because both of her parents are in prison. She knows. She talks about her “real mom” (grandma) and her “other mom” like it’s a typical family unit. She’s bright and cheerful and ready to take on the world every day. So is my little guy who is living in the shelter right now.
This is my ninth year teaching, and although I’m sure I haven’t seen it all, I sure have seen plenty when it comes to the lives of my students. For the most part, they’ve experienced far too much for the small amount of years they’ve been on this planet.
But my kiddos are nothing if not resilient. Every day I see why Jesus said we need to become like little children. They are loving, pure, generous, and full of wonder.
It’s just the very best thing in the whole world.
My kiddos come from every single situation you can imagine. Some are well fed and some eat free lunch and breakfast at school as their only meals. Some have beautiful new school clothes each fall and some exclusively wear ill-fitting hand-me-downs. Fashion isn’t a concern when you just need clothing on your body.
Some of my kiddos sleep in warm cozy beds in meticulously decorated rooms, just for them. Others pile up on the floor or on a single mattress at night with several other members of their family. Some live with their parents. Most live just with mom or grandma.
My kiddos’ faces are little pink seashells, and smooth roasted coffee and All the Colors of the Earth in between. Those faces hold huge missing-tooth smiles, wide-with-wonder eyes, and sometimes sniffles of disappointment.
They are chubby hands, and hungry stomachs. They are sticky cheeks and sweaty hair after recess. They are high-strung and zoned out. They are kind and aware as well as self-centered and tunnel-visioned.
They say my name at least 3,792 times a day. Each. They interrupt. They don’t wait their turn. They fumble. They cry. They freak out over a paper cut. They are all up in each other’s business. They tattle. Oh, do they tattle on each other.
But they also dream. And give a billion hugs out of nowhere. They write notes that say “I love you” nearly every day. They ask amazing questions, and come up with incredible connections between what we’ve learned and other things they know. They put up with my ridiculous dancing and singing every day. They look out for each other. They let me know when someone is feeling left out. They giggle. And it’s the most beautiful sound in the world.
I spend huge chunks of time with other people’s children. And there are days when I feel like giving up on it. But there’s just too much I would miss about these kiddos.
I love My People. All of them. But there’s a special place in my heart for the ones who are under 4 feet tall. My kiddos. Because they aren’t just MY people. They’re the future’s People. They won’t be my kiddos forever. They will be citizens of the world very soon.
So right now my job is to love them. To show them kindness and to show them that one person can make a difference. In doing so, I get to play a part in making our future better by building up my kiddos today.
To all My Kiddos, whether current or past: Mrs. Case loves you back.