I teach ninth grade English, and I don’t care what anybody says, the high school years can be brutal. Kids can be mean, and they all care way too much about what everybody else thinks. But these years are also precious because you’re only in high school once. (Thank goodness!) In what seems like a completely different world, my sister-in-law teaches kindergarten, and let me tell you, she does an amazing job. I cannot say enough about her as a person, but the same holds true as a teacher. I’ve seen it firsthand.
Rather recently, my SIL’s school was in session on a day that mine was out for break. She offered for me to come visit her classroom and read to her students, and I was so excited! I often hear the sweetest stories about these kids, and now I was going to get to put faces with names. Being in her classroom that day was so fun, and her students made me remember some very precious aspects of life. And sometimes we just need to be reminded of the simple – but important – things in life.
I was a bit early to her school, so I signed in at the front office and joined my sis-in-law’s class outside. Her class and two others were playing on the playground in the middle of the day, and these kiddos were having an absolute blast. They were talking, running, laughing, swinging, shouting, sliding, and loving their free time. Before my arrival, these kindergartners had been learning all morning, so this was a much needed and well-deserved break. As adults, we sometimes need breaks, too – big ones and small ones. Sometimes we need to take a walk in the middle of the day. Maybe you can go outside and make a lap around your building during your lunch break. Find a way to breathe in some fresh air. Use the buddy system, too. If you can’t get outside, try visiting a co-worked in the office over for a few minutes for a breather. Sometimes, though, we need longer breaks. You may need to take a relaxing vacation, or perhaps you want to take a fun trip. Recess is fun time, and it’s ok to remind yourself to have a little of that.
Kindergartners are quick to tell you they love you, and they anticipate being told that in return. Their hearts are on their sleeves, and they’re excited to show their feelings. They want to feel loved, and they deserve to be loved. This certainly shouldn’t go away as we get older. If anything, we should mature in our ability to love others. Wanting to love and be loved in return is a value our inner kindergartner should fight for.
Wow does my sister-in-law have it! As a high school teacher, there are days that I feel like I’m asked a lot of questions, but I left her classroom saying that my ninth graders do not hold a candle to these little ones. (And mind you, I’m not advocating that they should.) But my SIL would answer one question only to turn and have another. She answered with both the gentleness and the knowledge that these little ones needed and sought. I can’t imagine how many times she is asked in one day alone for help tying shoes. Yet she never huffed and puffed nor rolled her eyes. Patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but because our culture is used to immediate results, patience is often not our initial reaction. It is, however, much appreciated no matter who we are. If you’re in a position that demands a lot of patience, remember that you’re modeling a fruit of the spirit. Be encouraged knowing your model will not only affect others, it may influence them to do the same.
After I read to the kindergartner’s, they took turns asking me questions. They asked things like, “What’s your favorite animal?” and “Where is your favorite place to vacation?” and “What’s your favorite movie?” I noticed that after I gave answer, some of them would quietly say, “Yesssssssss!” They would squint their eyes and do a small fist pump in the air. I felt like they were cheering for me! (I promptly shared this with my ninth graders when we returned from break. Every now and then, I’ll hear a faint “Yessssss” in my classes now.) My sister-in-law explained that they were excited when they realized they had something in common with me. Like, “Yesssssss, we both love lions!” It’s amazing how lots of little cheers can motivate you! This was a great reminder that we need to give these little cheers to our friends. We need to motivate, encourage, and support each other.
The kindergartners got some free center time while I was in the room, so they had a choice to make. Do they read the books, or do they work a puzzle? Do they play in this center or that one? I didn’t notice any of them standing around conflicted over where to go. They just made a choice and went with it. Life is full of choices, and sometimes a choice is just a choice. One’s not good and the other bad. Maybe you want to eat chicken for dinner instead of steak. You have the option to do either – or both! Enjoy your free center time, and take advantage of it.
As it turns out, kindergartners have a lot of them. While I visited, they were all happy. But I know from talking to my sister-in-law, this isn’t always the case. Much like their love, they aren’t afraid to share any of their other feelings either. If they’re sad, they cry. If they’re confused, they ask a question. If they’re happy, they giggle and smile. As we mature, we learn to manage our feelings, but you should always have the people you can express your feelings to. Your tribe. Your people. We should not let our feelings manage us, but we also should not manage our feelings so much that we bury them all together.
Since the kindergarten classroom has tables, the students sit with three other classmates. They complete their individual work at these tables, but during snack time, they get to enjoy each other’s company. Like these little ones, we, too, need time to productive, sometimes surrounded by others, especially if you’re an extrovert. In a way, you’re somewhat of a siphon because your energy comes from being around other people. We all need time to just be with people as well. So sit yourself at a table and enjoy some company!
The day came to an end, and I said my goodbyes. Then as I turned to leave, I was stopped in my tracks. One of the kindergarteners was wrapped around my legs! She was giving me a big hug, and it was the best thing ever. I was overwhelmed by her sweet, childlike way. No matter our age, we need more hugs. I’m not a hugger by nature, but I believe hugs just generate kindness. Give some hugs because it certainly won’t hurt anything.
*The above pictures were taken in the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cataloochee Valley is now home to elk and lots of other wildlife, too. Getting there is quite a feat, so don’t head out unprepared – but the travel is well-worth the journey! You can read more about Cataloochee here.