8.8.18 My Kind of People

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“I don’t like noodles Auntie Elle.”

“We are AT Noodles and Company buddy, what did you think that they made here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Noodles. That’s what they make here.”

Blank stare.

“So what do you think you’d like to get then?”

Looking up at the menu board for a long time, my nephew studied the pictured options, finally resting on something near the bottom and pointing to it.

“Garlic bread.”

“Garlic bread?”

“Yeah, I like garlic bread.”

“Do you want something with your garlic bread like soup or a salad or something? I feel like garlic bread isn’t really a meal.”

Looking for another length of time, he pointed once more.

“Pineapple.”

“Pineapple … you want pineapple with your garlic bread.”

“Yeah.”

“Not buttered noodles or chicken or veggies.”

“No.”

“Well alright … garlic bread and pineapple it is.”

“And I’ll have six pieces instead of three so it’s more.”

“It’s more alright buddy, but okay, six it is.”

This was the conversation I had with my eight-year-old nephew when I was watching him and his brother and sister for a week this summer. Going from a mother of two to five had its challenges, but honestly, even on the worst day (like that one, where we were stuck in the dentist’s office for two hours and my daughter had a cavity for the first time and a major meltdown because she had a cavity for the first time) conversations like this happen, and then it is all okay.

I struggle with people who say they don’t like kids. What’s not to like? As a teacher and mother, I feel that little people are the absolute best kind of people – my kind. I find even more that adults that I truly enjoy are so enjoyable because I can still see the kid in them, and that is my favorite part.

Yesterday my son held the door open for me and said, “Hey mom … how old do you think you’ll be when you go to live in one of those nursery homes?” It took every ounce of my kegal-exercised-control not to pee my pants laughing. I told him that I figured somewhere in my eighties, but that he could help me make the decision based on how I was doing upstairs. God bless him.

I love the quote from Kent Nerburn that says, “Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun.” The thing is, I really believe that no child should ever be a child of chance. We have schools, we have teachers, and principals and aides and volunteers and absolutely NO excuse. By God it is our job to LOVE them, not to like or to tolerate, but to love. I might be stepping out here, but I would go so far as to argue that if you as a teacher do not love the students God puts in your way, you are no longer called to teach.

The last days of my summer are ebbing to a close, and as melancholy as I feel about the quickly fading fireflies and the earlier approaching mornings … I am still excited. I’ve bought new lantern globes, pencil toppers, and name plates. I’ve begun moving desks and replenishing marker supplies. I got new fringe rugs and about two-hundred colored paperclips divided according to shade because those are necessary to the balance of my room of course! I can’t help it. I am a kid person, because I am very much in touch with the kid in me, and I let her voice dictate a great deal of my adult decisions because she is still right.

Children (even naughty ones, God love them … they’re the most fun) are the best kind of people, and it takes nothing to make them happy. Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I pray this year, as the academic turn comes once again, that everyone will remember this quote and take the time to love a kid just by giving them five uninterrupted minutes of your time.

Even if they talk about Pokemon.

Or Shopkins.

Or bugs.

Or knock-knock jokes.

Or guess my number.

Or why questions.

Or foods they hate.

Or foods they love.

Whatever it is … give them time.

You never know, by doing so, we just might be healing humanity one garlic bread and pineapple dinner at a time.

Please share your favorite kid quote with me. I’d love to giggle along.

Elle

1.24.18 Not a Bad Day’s Work

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Whenever a year ends with my students, and they get sad about leaving, I tell them that I am like Mary Poppins. I am there to be with them until the wind changes, and when it does and they no longer need me, they will forget all but a pleasant memory or two. Sometimes the truth of this fills me with a bit of melancholy, but then I have days like today …  and moments like this one … and I am overwhelmed with the reason that I continue to teach and do what I do every day.

My job as an educator usually falls quite short of anything that could be compared to glamorous. On a daily basis I adopt the duties and occupations within my classroom I’d never have chosen to sign up for. Between endlessly picking up garbage, redirecting misguided behaviors, and repeating myself constantly, I too have moments of, “What am I doing here.” And then – just like that, I’m brought back to the reality that there is no job more rewarding than this one.

Today my fifth graders and I were scheduled to finish reading the novel Peter Pan, and if you’ve never read it, may I say you are missing out incredibly. This is NOT a story for the light reader. It is filled with symbolism, allegory, and thematic resonance. I can think of many adults that would miss what it is truly about, but not kids.

For as long as I can remember I’ve tried desperately to hold onto my youth simply because children are smarter than adults, and I want to be THAT intelligent. Kids see things without the eternal fog of pessimism. They inadvertently understand truths that we adults would no longer consider in our jaded state of “prove-it-to-me.” They believe simply because believing is enough. I am witness to their ability every day, and oh how I wish I could promise them Neverland, but even the end of J.M. Barrie’s masterpiece cannot do that.

As Peter Pan comes to a close, Wendy chooses to grow up, and Peter comes back one more time to visit, not knowing she had fully aged to an adult. The narrative tells of how Wendy wishes she didn’t have to tell the truth to Peter, “Hello Peter,’ she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as possible. Something inside her was crying, ‘Woman, woman let go of me.” At this point in the story my students and I stopped and discussed how we all have a childish heart inside of us, wishing to draw us back to simpler times when we were unafraid and sure of everything we now question. And in that fragile moment, on the verge of tears, these amazing students got it. They understood the beauty of the age they are both a part of and transitioning from.

We went on to discuss how there are things we wish we didn’t know, but do, and other things wish we did know, but are no longer able to believe. As I read the conversation between Wendy and her daughter, the kids were silent.

“Why can’t you fly now mother?”

“Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.”

And I saw it in their eyes. The moment of recognition that this isn’t just a story about a boy not growing up, this is a story about the choice to believe in everything childhood stands for. In the story Peter describes himself, “I am youth. I am joy.” My students and I talked about that being what we carry away from this novel. Joy is a choice, youthful imagination is something to covet and protect. And teaching, with its many challenges, is still the most magical profession I can think of. Where else can you carry a child’s understanding from one age to another? Where else can you see the wonder alight their senses from a classic story? Where else can you impart to them the value of their precious time being young?

So today, I am not necessarily winning any breakthrough awards. I am not making much money or traveling to exotic countries, or influencing the masses … but I got to converse with the smartest people on the planet, I got to travel to Neverland and back, and I got to feel (for a moment) like the world was a little bit brighter because of the sparkle of wonder in my students’ eyes. Not a bad day’s work after all.

10.29.16 Effervescence and Men’s Deodorant

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So recently, I started to wear men’s deodorant.  Classy, I know.  But you know what!?!  It works!  I’ve tried around five different brands of women’s in the past, and felt like I needed to “reapply” like four times a day.  Mens?  Just once thank you very much!  It really struck me though, and kind of disturbed me, to tell  you the truth, that I … a five foot three inch woman who isn’t typically a “sweater” would need it.  I couldn’t understand, that is, until I did a little anthropological experiment of my typical day. 

On Wednesday, of this past week, I took a small slip of paper and kept a tally of all the times someone asked me a question.  As a teacher, and mother, and wife … you might imagine it was quite a few.  But would you believe that between 6:30 in the morning, and 5:30 at night, I was asked one hundred and thirty-two different questions!?!  No joke!  It is no wonder I’m often so fragmented.  I realized that questions often come in the form of interruptions … and therefore, I usually have an air of distracted, disjointed, and well … just plain lostness about me.  

My favorite thing, is when people tell you to relax.  “Just breathe and take it slow,” they suggest.  I suggest a reality check … because how can a person form a logical thought in their head with one hundred and thirty-two interferences?  Sometimes I wish that I could begin my day like Ronald Regan began one of his presidential speeches, “Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.”  Genius!  Only life doesn’t work like that does it?  We are often going to need to answer the questions of children or adults who act like children (depending on where you work). It is just a part of the human experience I’m afraid. 

One thing I have learned in all of this, is that people really do respond to the way that questions are answered.  I’m certainly not perfect at this.  Sometimes an answer from me is “Mad as a hatter” off topic.  Sometimes it’s wise with split infinitives like Yoda.  Sometimes … as much as I hate to admit it … it’s a sarcastic eye-roll.  A lot of cliche lovers like to say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”  I say, why lie to kids?  Some questions are dumb!  Regardless of the intelligence of the question (or the person asking it for that matter) I do believe in giving people the honor of time.  I’m really convinced that there are times, after all, that someone is only asking a question to build a bit of conversation, or to gain a moment of attention. 

Yesterday I introduced my husband to a new acquaintance of mine who said to him, “Wow.  This one’s got a ton of energy.  How do you keep up?”  My husband laughed and said he tries his best.  The gentleman went on to say, “She and I had a great conversation, and we’re all talked out.” To which my husband replied, 

“Yeah, but then she comes home and keeps on talking!  She’s never all talked-out.”  

He was appropriately glared at, but then I realized that my bubbly, enthusiastic nature and “talk-all-day” personality  (which rightly so annoys some people) is something that makes me useful.  God gives us what we can handle, and apparently, he intends that I handle those one hundred and thirty two questions a day.  I may come back kind or cranky, sweet, or snarky … but with me, I suppose at least you’re always guaranteed an answer.  I’ll keep praying for patience, but until then, I guess I’ll just keep being me – filled with effervescence, and of course … men’s deodorant. 

Talk on, 

Elle