Thursday, September 17, 2015

When the Teacher Becomes the Student

Four weeks in, teaching 4-year-olds has already accomplished what four years of undergrad and two years of graduate school could not: I now have the ability to take a nap after 3 pm and still fall asleep at bedtime. Oh, and my evenings are a success if I can manage to keep myself awake until 8:00. It's a brave new world.

The identity of life's biggest mystery has now become clear to me. How can four-year-olds have ALL the energy and still somehow manage to steal all of mine, too?

As we have settled into a routine, life feels like it has hit the repeat button.

Do some fun school activities.

Have the same conversation with the same child for the 637,425th time.

Play during free time.

Have the same conversation with the same child for the 637,426th time.

Remind the children that friends don't poke other friends.

Have the same conversation with the same child for the 637,427th time.

Do some fun school activities.

Have the same conversation with the same child for the 637,428th time.

Eat snack.

Have the same conversation with the same child for the 637,429th time…

I know that adjusting to a structured school setting can be challenging, but I look forward to the day when the message "We all have to do the activity Miss Marken tells us to" sinks in as clearly for some of them as it has sunk in for me (maybe 637,430 times will be the charm?)

Last week I found myself repeating that idea yet again as I was introducing shapes in math class, and longing for the day when a little more maturity finds its way into my classroom and this particular battle is more of a memory than a reality.

To get their bodies as well as their brains involved in learning about shapes, I cut out a large orange triangle and placed it on the floor. I then instructed half of my class to march around it while I played a song, with the promise to the other half that they would switch places halfway through.

To my absolute amazement, the kids sitting on the floor sat quietly and waited for their turn, and the kids marching in circles around the triangle actually marched in circles around the triangle. I, for the first time since school started, found myself not having to remind anyone what they were supposed to be doing. Maybe this teaching stuff isn't too hard after all! The freedom of that 3:19 was exhilarating. And overwhelming. I had no idea what to do with myself.

So I started singing along to the song. Our weekly focus was on everyone being special and unique, so to help reinforce that notion I had selected one of my favorite kids' songs. I thought my singing might help the children focus on the words of the song and hear some of its message.

Little did I realize the profound effect that moment would have on me.

I got to the bridge of the song and heard these words leave my mouth:
…but God wasn't finished
He had more to do.
He planned something wonderful—
that's when He made you. He made you!
He thought it all over,
He got it just right.
You make Him happy—
you are His delight.
When you look in the mirror,
you'll see His touch…
because God made you special
and He loves you very much!
As I sang those words, I looked at the seven precious souls in my classroom. Each one an intentional creation of God. Each one made perfectly, exactly how their loving Creator intended them to be. Each one placed where He intended them to be right now. Each one entrusted to me to help them navigate through this stage in life.

This year I know I will have to issue more reminders that friends really don't poke other friends. Or burp in their faces. Or push each other out of the way to get a certain spot in line. This year I know that conversation 637,430 will happen, as will conversation 637,431. And once that conversation slows down another will rise to take its place.

This year I know God will entrust to me seven children to love, guide, and be an example to. Each one made in God's image. Each one a delight to God.