Many of us have children beginning school soon, or who have begun a new year already. We are parents and teachers and we know, beginning school can be hard for kids and families with new routines, new teachers, new classes, or new schools. I thought of this post as I do at the start of each school year, from a time when feelings were still quite raw from a "difficult" school experience, and am reposting for you all to reread and share. Here is hoping that you all are blessed with kind, loving teachers with abilities to see the best, the most positive traits in your children. Hope you are blessed with Teachers and staff able to erase the proverbial box and replace it with an open mind and heart.
OUR MAGICAL CREATURES
When I started teaching, someone, I think it was my stepmom, shared a poem or letter? she found. I believe it was written as if from parent to teacher about a little girl on the first day of school. And though my memory is foggy on everything else, I remember the message as 'please notice that my child is nervous and excited to be at school, that she wore 'special shoes' and lost a tooth last night, and she longs to be noticed for who she is and welcomed to this new adventure called school.'
I felt most successful as a teacher when I made time, first thing, to check in with each and every child, each and every day. I would say, "Tell me something you've done lately." or "Tell me something I don't know about you." or I would just let them bubble over with whatever they were fizzling to tell me. I really felt I knew my kids and therefore taught them better for it. Conferences were easier because the parents and I could laugh and share their children.
Isn't that what we all hope for when we send our children off to school? We want our children to be noticed and loved for who they are, and who we parents created. Creation via a child is a powerful (or at least time consuming :) form of self expression. Probably the most painful as well, because our children are us, and our children are not us, all at once.
What I didn't know while reading that letter as a twenty something first year teacher was that when I feel my child has been rejected or is not being seen for his true and beautiful self, to say it hurts doesn't even scratch the surface. I've had to grow a thick skin as the mom of a child with an invisible disability. People in general have a hard time believing what they can't see. So, to explain what they don't really understand, they make up stories like the Greeks, and Romans and many other cultures between now and then.
One popular tale is "I see that child misbehaving. That parent is doing a lousy job. She needs to discipline that kid the way my parents did it." The story is based in fear of the unknown I think (The idea that a child that might not succeed with the usual parenting techniques or the one's we're most familiar with may seem scary to some), and (the story) is meant to create a feeling of safety (this couldn't happen to me) for those telling the story. They also distance themselves by giving our kids worrisom names or labels; naughty, manipulative, busy body, bully or more serious; Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Child Onset Bi Polar Disorder, or Tourret's Syndrome. . . and They see our children as monsters through their fear.
The lucky ones (parents, teachers, relatives, friends), those not blinded by fear, see our children as the magical creatures that they are. Our children are truly Magical creatures with special powers to ignite ideas into being, to illuminate the darkness with their smile, poetry, music or art as they dance through life to an unfamiliar beat. The lucky ones hear our child's voice as a song on the sea breeze gentle and steady and meant to be.
As a Mom and teacher, I feel the need to extinguish the power of the bad stories and names and the fear. In order to do this, I accept the sage advice of wise philosophers. I love what is, and accept the truth. So when the storytellers say "He is oppositional, defiant, or seeking attention.", I say "Yes. He is!" He is defiantly opposing being placed in a box built by a stranger . . .built, for some other child. He demands for people to pay attention to who he truly is. He is loving and loved, creative and evolving, strong and fragile, and. . .human. As a parent I love him, nurture him, teach him and advocate for him. As a teacher I love those like him (and all the others too), I nurture them, teach them and advocate for them.