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Here’s What’s Amazing About Kids

December 6, 2011

Two boys are sitting in the back of my classroom.

They are quietly talking, flipping through a packet of pages they received in class.  They point their fingers at their own papers, then criss-cross their arms to point out words on the other person’s page.  They underline.  They write.  They flip and turn and chatter.  Papers shuffle.  Fingers get all twisted.  Their voices get more animated.  I watch one boy’s eyes shift, left to right, as he scans the sentence his friend is telling him about.  He lights up when he sees the passage.  They stare at each other, and continue to talk quietly.  They continue like this for five more minutes.

Suddenly one calls me over.  They ask me to sit down with them, to discuss the story we read in class together.  I’m elated, and trying desperately to control the giddy teacher ready to burst out of me.

We sit and we talk.  Two teenage boys and me.  We talk about labels.  About identity.  About misperceptions and second chances and why people don’t stop to help out when they know they should.  We talk about how hard it is to bounce back from negative experiences.  We acknowledge that we’re not all as resilient as we’d like to think.

They’re young boys.

I’m older.

They wear baggy jeans and scuffed up sneakers that they draw on with Sharpies.

I am wearing black heels.

They have hair dangling in their eyes that neither bothers to wipe away.

My hair is back in a bun.

They ride skateboards and do trick jumps off of the bike racks in the front of our school.

I was never allowed on a skateboard.

They roll their eyes and smirk when they are told about something they “have to do.”

I am the girl who gets her work done before it’s due.

The boys and I couldn’t be more different.  We couldn’t be more opposite.  Our lives couldn’t be any more detached if we tried.

But here we sit.  Here we talk.  Here we make connections. Because kids are amazing.

Kids invite us to their table.  Kids risk vulnerability and insecurity and silly-ness and are bold enough to want to share and hear.  Kids teach me to stop and pause.  Kids teach me that there are still surprises left in life.  Just when I think I’m too old, or too teacher-esque – here are my students – asking me to come sit at their table.  Just when adults write them off and throw up our hands, they shock us with their poise.  With their maturity and innocence.  Here are my students – dispelling stereotypes and gender roles and prejudices, flipping eagerly through pages of a story and reflecting thoughtfully about what they’ve read.  Here are my students – two boys at the back of a classroom – discussing literature.  Their enthusiasm is almost palpable.  I can see their thoughts connecting like little wire ends being sparked together.  Their curiosity can’t be contained, and I feel like we could sit here all afternoon.

Every day does not always bring these unexpected moments.

Every day does not always remind me why I wanted to become a teacher.

But that’s what makes these days so special.

It is these days, these few and far between days, when I realize how truly remarkable these young minds are.

It is these days that I realize I am as much their student as I am their teacher.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2011 9:30 pm

    Love this one, LPK, love it. I taught school in Africa many years ago and those students were almost universally grateful to be there. But they were timid and often afraid to engage one another or me in conversation. When the spark lit – it was wonderfully exciting and energizing. Perhaps more so because it was so very rare.

    I also taught confirmation here in Santa Barbara for about 10 years and those students were the exact opposite of my African friends. Many of them so blase about being there. But occasionally, there would be a spark there, too. And I would believe again that there was a reason I was called to be their teacher for a while. Great stuff here – thanks, as always.

  2. December 6, 2011 9:30 pm

    Well got our initials wrong – sorry about that! Is it Lauren? That would be simpler, wouldn’t it??

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