It’s the eye contact.
As D walks in, he makes eye contact with me as he whirs around in circles like an airplane and lands in the classroom peacefully and safely.
It’s when A comes in the morning well-groomed and gives me a hug with such great tenacity, nuzzles her head, and looks up and says, “I love you Ms. Lee.” Her hair cleanly brushed back into a fresh ponytail will list approximately 30 more seconds before she dives ferociously into her day of coloring, creating, and cutting.
It’s when J comes into my room with her fox slippers held to her chest and informs me, “I’m feeding them.” Two years later, I see her and she gives me the same hugs and says “Ms. Lee, I’m almost as tall as you!” I only cry on the inside a little.
It’s when little E who wouldn’t stop roaring like a lion on his first day at his new school and my first day as a teacher tells you that he loves school. Then, two years later, they look at you with those same wide eyes and the joy emanates from both of us because we know what went through that year to get to where we are. He just sees me as a teacher who didn’t think he was “bad,” but I see so much more.
Kids do a lot of hilarious things. But, my favorite part is watching them be themselves. And, my second favorite part is watching them appreciate that fact that I love watching them be themselves. I’ll never know the impact of this simple notion, but I can only hope that it’s enough.
Working with kids is a tiring thing to do every day, all day long. I’m not even talking about teaching them – that a whole different story. I’m talking about the mere act of being surrounded by tiny to mid-size human beings whose brains are still developing, along with the rest of their bodies. Not a lot makes sense about what they choose to do or say. It certainly doesn’t make sense to them. And, it only makes a little sense to me because I’m a crazy pscyho-analyzer who finds their behaviors fascinating. (I find it fascinating only in the time that I’m not losing my mind or my cool, obviously.)
A lot of times it’s hard to see that this is all worth it. The days are long and the weeks are longer. The curriculum falls flat and everything is confusing. The inspiration escapes me and fatigue sets in.
But, when I focus on the tiny humans. The tiny human beings that look to me with those eyes that carry the joy and pain of a broken world, and we both for a moment truly see each other. That’s what makes it all worth it.