You said they would be a handful. Unruly, even. Making the impression that they were untamed beasts, needing to be controlled. And God help the grown-up who tries with her good intentions and well-planned credentials to do so.
I decided a long while ago, after a little girl left our world and danced into her kingdom song, that humans were not mere numbers. They must be more. There must be a soul within these little bones that question and search so.
So I braced myself on the first day of school and tried hard to remember that my love for them that I would have, but not there yet. I tried hard as I painted their names onto their desks and cubbies, traced the letters of their names onto labels and folders again and again. Each name a chance to utter a small prayer for, but completely void of any faith or anticipation for success.
In they walked, with timidity and shyness - an unknowingness of ability to trust. New faces. New names. I guess we were all a little wary. I don’t trust who you are until we can find some common ground. Us humans- such a mixture of doubt and hope we house in the same body.
They are my treasures now; these nine-year old souls that need simply to be seen, heard, and hugged. I discovered that one of them needed space. Space to move, space to freely speak, space to put his anger. One of them needed a blanket to calm, to put weight on him when he thought he would unravel. One of them needed and secretly wanted a structure. He needed to know that there are boundaries. Every time he tested them, it was a desire to know, this is how far I can go. I am kept. I am woven in. One of them needed compassion, so every time she lied about a headache, arm ache, leg ache, etc. I said “I am so sorry that hurts.” I poured on attention to the ghost ache, because really, it was a thirst for something bigger. One of them needed me to laugh at her jokes. One of them needed to feel important. One of them needed to get lost in a story in order to forget the one that is her real life. One of them needed to write a daily poem about fruit. They all needed to know that they can be poets, scientists, mathematicians, or anything they want to be really. One of them needed help zipping her backpack because her Harry Potter books were ever-abounding. One of them needed to be left alone. And then around January, I predict, he’ll crack a smile because he knows I can be trusted.
I discovered also, that they are loud. They stomp. They fight. They climb over seats. They push. They shove. They throw themselves on the ground and scream. They don’t complete assignments correctly, or sometimes at all. They have so much trouble following rules. They spill things. They twirl in circles when I say “walk in a straight line.” They forget things. They speak out of turn. They get bad attitudes.
But they are mine and they are my treasures. They say I’m sorry when they hurt a friend. They say yes ma’am after they accidentally talk back. They have genius ideas. They help each other. They pick up trash without me asking. They take things to the lost and found. They clean up when they make a mess. They try again next time. They look at me with a pure desire to be validated. They remind me of things I forget. They draw me pictures of flowers, their dogs, their dirt bikes, or ninjas. And say with pride “Ms. Martin, I want you to have this.”
The ones who meant well to warn me of what I was getting myself into were a little bit right and a little bit wrong. My students do thunder in like a herd of wild animals at 8 am. Ready or not. Other teachers bring them back from lunch exasperated. But these little ones have captured my heart. Because their hearts, I suppose are much like mine. Thirsty to be known. Wanting to be hugged. Needing healing for what hurts. Shaken by the bad things. Looking for the good things. Hating the harsh taste of consequence. Feeling fulfilled when a right thing was done. Confusion at the mystery of grown-ups. Wonderment of nature. Endless love of weekends. Jittery excitement over a crush. Love of writing time. Hatred for Math. Nervousness over tests.
I sometimes wish I could control them for my sanity’s sake, but I know they are just like me.