For this week’s blog, I struggled with a little bit of writer’s block. As I stood in the cafeteria today and watched the Pre-Kindergarten teachers bring their students out of the cafeteria on their way back to their classrooms, that writer’s block quickly dissolved.
There I stood, at the exit door of the elementary cafeteria, waving at all of the little ones who were lining up to be taken back to their classes. They were all restless as you can imagine little four years olds to be. Watching them in their sweet little lines reminded me of watching an ant mound after someone poked a stick into it. They were all smiling, shifting in their places, and generally doing everything except standing still. Several were talking to me at the same time, trying to tell me their names or how old they were, while others were waving at me and trying to give me fist bumps. Then their teacher, Mrs. Lynn, addressed them all and they started the process of leaving the cafeteria. As they left with air bubbles and angel wings, Mrs. Lynn focused on one young man who had the largest snot bubble I have ever seen in my life and which covered an abnormally large area on the side of his face. Though I was drawn into my own thoughts of how could that much snot exist on one child’s face, I remembered my own child as I am sure all of you have fond, or not so fond, memories of a similar instance happening with your own child. I looked at Mrs. Lynn and said with as much sincerity as I could muster at the time, “Mrs. Lynn, better you than me.” And I can promise you that I meant exactly what I said. (Let me stop here and explain air bubbles and angel wings for those who do not know the terminology. For those of us who spend, or spent, their teaching careers in secondary schools rather than in elementary, we are not accustomed to such terminology. Since beginning my tenure as a superintendent, though, my elementary colleagues have taught me that air bubbles are what teachers tell their students to hold in their mouths in order to occupy themselves in order that they may not talk in the halls and disturb other classes. Angel wings are what they look like when they place their hands behind their backs as they walk down the halls so that they may not disturb each other. This has been an invaluable lesson to me, and I am thankful for my elementary staff for enlightening me!)
I have no doubt that as soon as Mrs. Lynn got that student inside of her classroom where she had at least an entire roll of paper towels or a full box of Kleenex at her disposal, she cleaned that young man up. The reason that I have no doubt that this happened even without having to witness it, is because I know that Mrs. Lynn cares for and loves her students. I also have no doubt that any other teacher in our elementary school would do this very exact thing for a child in their classroom. The best thing about our school, is that our teachers love children. They are not their own children, but they love them enough to clean wads of snot off of their faces every single day. They love them enough to do it caringly and patiently and often times with more dignity than that child’s own parent might show. School is most certainly intended to be a place where students learn, but I insist that it can’t be just that. School has to be a place where students are loved, guided, cared for, and even cleaned up when needed. For students to be successful in school, which often times transfers to success in later life, they rely on professional educators who live by an unspoken oath of loving their students unconditionally. The world needs more teachers who take on this oath, and I am thankful that our school is full of them.
*Side note – None of the students in the picture are our students. I used this particular picture to illustrate angel wings and air bubbles.