Quotes from the Underbelly

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Do you really want to know what teaching is like?  It’s me, on the floor, on all fours, searching for a lost tooth.  The carpet in my room is navy and tan speckled, and the tiny white tooth disappeared into the miniature hills and valleys of the material.  The students cleared a path for me but only for a moment before swallowing the space around me.  Then at least ten of us were looking for the tiny tooth.  It was a prize, this tooth.  The brave little girl had pulled it herself during lunch, wrapped it in a wrinkled and slightly bloodied napkin before stuffing it into her pocket.  When she pulled the tooth free to inspect her handiwork after lunch, it fell and quickly disappeared.  If only you could have seen her face when she believed it was lost.  This blonde hair, blue-eyed doll is the eldest student I have – eldest as in has enough common sense for most of the 150 first graders in our school.  But still, she was on the brink.  Her unflinching sense of self knew she wasn’t supposed to cry, but the little girl inside her was struggling.

After lots of searching, no tooth was to be found.  I told her I’d write her mother a note about the tooth, that I’d even write the tooth fairy if she wanted me to.  Her little head nodded and she walked away.  My heart broke.

Sixty seconds later, she bounded back to my desk, tooth in hand.  She’d found the hidden gem on top of her desk.  (So much for crawling around on the floor in navy pants, bad knees and all.)  But it was all worth it…her face made it all worth it.

I read a wonderful quote this week:  “The soul is healed by being with children.” 

In the midst of everything…extended school days, test prep, rigid rules, lengthy forms and evaluations, unhappiness and grumbles, there are the children.  I can’t tell you how many times in the past few years I’ve wanted to quit.  I hate getting up at 5:30 every morning.  I hate picking out clothes for work and wrestling with my hair.  I despise the rush of mornings.  And then I get to work…and it’s rushed there too.  I just want to scream, “I’m done!”

But somehow I don’t, and the quote above says it all.  My soul is healed by their smiles and their words and their needs.  They need me and I can’t leave them just yet.

More quotes from the underbelly:

*We’re looking at pictures of American symbols.  We turn to find the Statue of Liberty, and a little fellow blurts out, “Is that God?”

*During math time, we had the addition problem 35-3 = _.  (The students are supposed to stand the problem up vertically then subtract.)  A little girl comes to me and says, “How do I do this one?  It’s going to take up all my fingers.”  Somehow I bit my tongue and didn’t respond, “And your toes and several strands of hair.”

*My sweet student from Egypt is picking up more and more English.  Now instead of saying  please toilet he’s up to, “Mrs. Rackley, please toilet.  Okay?”  Precious.

*We’ve been watching Frozen during snack time over the past few weeks.  One day the song Let it Go came on.  The girls started belting out the song, and I mean word for word, singing in their best ready for Broadway voices.  Hearing them sing like that sent chills across my skin.  It was so moving I almost cried.  Then I scanned the boys and they’re looking at the girls like they’re aliens.  One boy even had his ears covered.  So instead of crying, I laughed.

These kids are a hoot.

Instead of having a nice, normal Monday of learning and fun with these kids tomorrow,  we’re instead entering the torture chamber.  Achievement tests begin tomorrow.  Government mandated, cluelessly approved, so not appropriate for six and seven-year old children, tests.  On my honor, I will strive to take as much of the stress from them as I can but no matter what I do…bribe them with mints, stand on my head, feed them cookies afterwards, they still have to do the work.  I can’t do it for them.  My kiddos will have to sit for two hours a day and fill in bubbles to questions that may or may not be on their level.  As a teacher and a parent, I despise these tests.  Have you ever seen a child cry over a test when the teacher isn’t allowed to tell them a word?  I have.  Have you ever seen the panic in a student’s eyes when they realize the powers that be are trying to trick them with the answer choices?  I see it every year.  It makes me wonder if the creators of tests for children have ever had their souls healed by a child before?  If they have, I can’t help but believe they would never succumb such small children to such inappropriate measures.

To all the children and teachers and parents readying for the week ahead, my heart and head are with you.  We’re all in this together just in different rooms, in different counties,  in different states.  I pray these children rise above the stress and blossom, and I pray for the leadership of our schools and country.  I pray for awareness for what small children really are.  They are not robots or machines and they will not respond like one.  I pray that each unique child will be loved and appreciated for who they are…not for a number.  We are all different.  Not everyone will make a high score on their ACT.  Not everyone can be Valedictorian.  But I know this, everyone is here for a reason.  Everyone has a job to do somewhere on this earth.

For every child that has healed my soul, thank you.  Thank you for being you…just you.

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