I’ve been thinking of one word a lot lately.
No, it’s not queso.
(I already soaked up that $4.00 goodness at dinner the other night).
The word is actually acceptance.
Let me give a little backstory. The other day in class, one of my students corrected me on something that I wish I could remember now, but it escapes me (but I’d venture to say it had a turkey on it).
Now, some teachers would be super embarrassed about it, especially since I’m the teacher of first-graders. However, I jump at those opportunities. You want to make a six year-old feel like he is a king? Have him prove his teacher. I said something to the effect of, “Thanks for teaching me!”
His look of awe is one I try to keep in mind during the rough days, followed by, “You mean I taught YOU something?!”
All the time. In fact, there’s some days – and I kinda hate to say it – that the kids teach me more, than I probably teach them.
Last Wednesday was one of those.
One sweet girl in my class can be best summed up as to know her is to love her. If you know anything about Junie B. Jones, she is that book character come to life. Tries her best, but can frustrate you to pieces, yet somehow after teaching your heart out with her, she always ends up making you laugh without trying.
Well, while checking folders last Wednesday morning, I got to hers. She came in a little late, and I told her “Good Morning” without looking up, as she began to unpack.
I opened up her folder and a note from her mother fell out. It informed me that she decided to cut quite a bit of her own hair at home (like I said, Junie. B. Jones.), and they tried their best to mend it, but in her words, “It’ll have to take time to grow out.” Her mom explained that she was feeling very self-conscious and emotional about it, so to kinda keep my eyes and ears open.
You know, kids get a bad reputation. The media paints them all as bullies, technology-entranced, and self-entitled. And if I am being completely honest, I can occasionally fall into that trap. I did on Wednesday. I was already mentally preparing how I’d handle it when (not if) this sweet girl got her feelings hurt by “kids being kids.”
I didn’t want to bring extra attention to the situation, so I didn’t say anything as she began to walk to her table. This is always a quiet part of the day, so it was easy to listen in on any conversation that I just knew would take place. After all, I’m the teacher, right?
I watched as the kids, of course, looked as she went to her seat.
And I watched as she sat down, pretending to be very focused, but I could practically see her analyzing the looks coming towards her.
Just as I was about to open my big mouth to give a casual reminder that one of our rules is to be kind to others, I stopped.
And I watched.
And I listened, without reminding them to be quiet during morning work.
You know what I heard from her classmates?
Did you get a haircut? It looks great!
I like your headband!
I really like your haircut!
And you know what I saw from this sweet girl?
Her shoulders eased.
She leaned back.
And she gave a huge smile.
They were kids being kids. And let me tell you, nothing will make me prouder of them than that moment last week. Not a test result, a quiet line, or writing all their letters/numbers the correct way and neatly (but that may come a close second).
We all hear these same questions in our head at some point(s) during our lives:
Did she mean to ignore me when I walked by?
Were those whispers followed a laugh about me?
What are they going to think of my outfit? My haircut?
You can be six years-old, or ninety-six, it doesn’t matter. We all have felt unaccepted, whether we admit to it or not. And we especially won’t admit that we’ve been the cause for some of those feelings, too.
I’ve been there and still revisit that hurtful place, every now and then. And I know some friends who are going through it now, and feel like their good is never good enough.
Let me tell you. It is.
And let me tell you why.
Because Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect life, accepts you for who you are.
Bad haircut and all.
Temper and all.
Insecurity and all.
He even loved you enough to die for you.
Every morning on my short drive to school, I say a little prayer in the car. I always end it by asking God to let me be a light for others, for my students, and for my coworkers. And my friends will tell you I do better some days than others.
My kiddos, on that Wednesday morning, were the light of Jesus to that little girl, even though His name wasn’t said and can’t be taught. Some of them may not even know Him, but I pray that I and their classmates that do will show the grace and acceptance we’ve been given.
You know, kids being kids. And teaching their teacher a very valuable lesson in the process.
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. – Romans 15:7