Monday, November 21, 2016

Little Faces

What do you do when a school bus full of little children wraps around a tree?
What do you say to the kids who show up in your class in the morning?
They may not know, those kids were on the other side of the city
But maybe they know.

What do you do when you see the face of the boy who walked away?
Who is only wearing one shoe
Knowing his pain is just as real if not more
Than those who lie in the hospital
I can't hug him and tell him his pain matters too
That he is brave
And strong
But I want to

What do you do when a former student
Took selfies with his cousin yesterday
Then finds out today
Those pictures were happy goodbyes

What do you do when you have your own class of little kids just like those
Waiting in your class tomorrow
To learn how to read or multiply or divide or be nice to their friends
And all you want to do is cry
And hug them
And pile on the pillows on your reading rug
And read Dr. Seuss and Shell Silverstein
Because who doesn't smile when they read that silliness?

What do you say when you want to say a million things
But you can't find your voice?
How do you hold it together when you see those little faces?
Knowing there are teachers just like you just a school zone away
Who will have too many little faces missing in the morning

The little faces I look at tomorrow will look just like the faces I saw today
They will be happy and carefree and silly and distracted by dust bunnies
And talking when I am talking
And rubbing their hands all over the walls walking down the hall
Even though I tell them every day to keep their hands off the wall
And making noises during testing just to drive me crazy
And tilting their chair back on the back legs
Even though I told them they will fall
And changing the background on their laptops
When they should be reading
And not capitalizing their sentences
And not putting spaces between their words
And not using the math strategies that I have taught them 100 times
And poking the friend beside them who is trying to focus
And looking at each other
And picking their nose
And not using their manners
And not trying their best

And at least for tomorrow, I am going to let these things slide

Because in the end, none of that really matters
If they don't pay attention to my lesson, it's not the end of the world
The walls will be okay if a few more kids wipe their dirty hands all over them
And a little bird noises to break the silence is better than no noises at all
And they can get ice from the nurse if they fall out of their chair
And if a picture of their favorite video game character on the screensaver
Really makes them that happy, then so be it
And the words they have to say still say the same thing
Without a capital letter
And maybe no one else can read what they write if they don't put spaces between their words
But I can read them, and tomorrow, that is enough
And I'm not the best at math either, and I've done alright for myself
And poking fun is fun, so hey, why not
And tomorrow, I will be looking harder at them, so they are welcome to look at each other
And boogers are just boogers, that's why God made Germ-X
And eventually they will have to learn their manners
And I can make them try their best next week

Tomorrow my only goal is that I leave knowing I loved them as hard as I could
That at least one person poured into their life
Tomorrow the only thing I want to teach them
Is that one person cares

Their teacher thinks they are awesome even if they are weird
And smart even though they are a work in progress
And funny even if none of their jokes have punch lines
And adorable even if I know they pick their nose
And talented even if they can't carry a tune
And loved even though that is not my job

Because I do

And if any of those faces I see every day isn't there
That face will be missed

Tomorrow teaching will be on the backburner
I can teach them all of those other things next week
Tomorrow I will teach them they are loved.

Tonight I will pray for the little faces who will be scared of all they saw today, the one who has carried little faces to school every day, the families who are missing little faces, the parents who are blessed to drop little faces off at school in the morning but will do so with a heavy heart, the little faces who will be missing their friends' faces tomorrow, the teachers who will miss little faces tomorrow, for everyone whose heart is heavy for little faces tonight.

Little faces are my favorite.

***I wrote this last night when I didn't know how to feel or what to say or what to expect.  But today I watched a whole school in Chattanooga do just what I didn't think I could do.  We all looked at our kids through whole new eyes.  We all loved them in the best ways we knew how.  We all did our best to find the words.  We hugged as many as would let us.  We thanked our bus drivers for the important task that they do each morning of  bringing a large group of kiddos to a place where they can learn as much as we can teach them.  We tried to hold it together but forgave ourselves when we couldn't.  Today we were better teachers than we were yesterday.  I didn't want to get out of bed this morning.  But I am so blessed to have walked into a place full of people with hearts as heavy as mine, just as determined to love them the best way we know how.  I am grateful for every hug, tear, look of understanding, short pep talk, and vent session I was blessed with today.  I wish I had more words.  All I have left are wordless prayers.

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