I told my friend Chris the other day on his blog that you can’t go wrong when you write about the sincere words of little ones. Adults who don’t spend a lot of time around little kids may forget just how sage they can be. Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly a lot of mistakes made among any group of people. But there is a kind of sincere, sweet innocence among most children. They haven’t become as jaded as the grown-ups (“grups” my old friend Marty used to say) who do a poor job of running the world. They say what they feel without the filters we often apply in "polite" conversation. Kids have the feeling of being passengers on a train that feels a little out of control. Maybe it is because I am a bit jaded, but I feel that way a lot of the time. Just look at the newspaper. Just listen to the news. Just tune in to politicians trying to lie their way into office.
Kids will tell you stuff that grups won’t, including things that you may not want to hear. Such as details of their being sick or how bad your haircut looks, or how hairy your belly looks when your shirt goes up on the playground. It just comes with the territory. They also share beautiful things that are a delight to hear, that the grups are too self-conscious to come forward with. Like how they cried at the end of the book we were reading together when they were alone, or how much they love their old dog who may not live very much longer, or how funny their little brothers and sisters are when they laugh with their mouths full. You know, the really important stuff.
And living with little ones is a constant source of delight in personal accomplishments. You would not believe how many firsts there are when you teach second grade. Not long ago my friend Bay lost her first tooth. Hooplah! In one single morning I wrote about these important firsts in the classroom. Hannah told me that she drew the absolute best flower she had ever drawn in her entire life. Surya told me that he wrote the best letter he had ever written. It was certainly his best that I had ever seen. During writing workshop while we were working on dialogue I heard, “This is the best story I ever wrote… This is the longest book I’ve ever written… I think I have an awesome story on my hands.” And while we may be prone to hyperbole, I think these are probably true. I mean these guys are young. Hannah’s little flower was awesome. Suryah’s letter was organized, friendly, neat and fun to read. These guys haven’t written that many books yet so it is entirely possible that every story is the best they have ever written. And how cool is it that I get to be here to bear witness to all of these incredible firsts?
A few weeks ago, when Madona, our student teacher, was out on a fool’s errand, we hunkered down to write her our farewell letters. The room was quiet, blues playing through the speakers (we were feeling kind of blue so it was entirely appropriate). Pencil scratching sounds, sighs, pensive looks, scratching heads, paper rustling, rereading, whispering as kids read passages of their letters to each other, more writing. It was one of those magic times. I had asked the children to think of their favorite memories with all of us as well as to give advice for a new teacher. Who would be better to give advice than someone who likes you a lot and who wants you to do your best with future kids – just like them?
Here are some choice bits of advice.
*Teach with confidence. *Be gentle with them. *Make up games. *Make up songs with them. *Read them the best books. *Write stories with them. *Make your class rules together. *Have a bunch of plants in there. *Read Holes to your students and watch the movie! *Be nice. *You want to have a lot of class pets. *Play on the recess field. Don’t just sit there like a lot of teachers. *Have at least 25 minutes for recess. *Learn to play an instrument. *Teach how magnetism works. *Be understanding. *Be playful. Read at least two times every day. *If you are teaching and someone is being inappropriate, be kind and don’t yell at them. *If you find something on the recess field like a cool rock and someone takes it from you don’t holler. *Have adventures together. *Be kind to your new class and they will behave. *You should be nice and kind in the heart. *You should treat the children good and they will show respect… *Teach everyone how to play chess… *Read enthusiastically… *Make kids laugh from their hearts… *Teach a lot about nature… *Have lots of song time… *Always have that bright ready smile on your face…
*I think to be the best teacher in the world you need to feel compassionate to your students for the ice-cream. You will need to feel their joy and happiness for the whipped cream. And last, for the cherry on top, in times when things are funny, you laugh it up with each other.
*I will miss you when you leave. I will still remember you and still be your friend.
And this last little piece of advice would be good for all grups to remember, for the world would truly be a better place.
*If somebody is being mean to you and they say that they are sorry, don’t get mad over them. Just forgive them.