The Magic of Looking Into the Eyes and Heart of a Child
In our district we have something very special. We have a literacy coach who understands kids and teachers. She provides us with uplifting and reinvigorating professional development opportunities. The one I am honored to be a part of this year is called, “Veteran Teachers Work Group”. It’s designed for us teachers who’ve been in the classroom long enough to know what we’re doing but still benefit immensely from new ideas, fresh readings, writing reflections, and sharing a day with each other. It is a day we all look forward to because it’s a day that fills our souls and energizes us to return to the classroom for another month of trying new ideas and with new outlooks. Certainly one goal is to infuse dynamic literacy strategies into our teaching and classroom. But it does so much more than that.
Not only are we lucky enough to read new books that inspire our conversations and direct our decisions of new strategies to try in our classrooms, it also guides our own writers’ workshop. Yes, we veteran teachers have our own mini writers’ workshop, complete with author’s chair sharing. We do this because our gifted literacy coach knows the benefits of empowering teachers to write.
I’m sharing my writing because I need to, for me. Like many who write, I write when I need to understand confused or conflicted feelings. Writing helps me sort through them. It’s cathartic. So often we use writing as a way to share or communicate information with others. But for me it’s often how I take in and process information. So here’s what I was reflecting on today at our Veteran Teachers writers’ workshop:
As retirement approaches, or should I say “looms” over me, my feelings are a humble mixture of relief, fear, and sadness. As I sit here and reflect on these feelings I am reminded of something that happened yesterday as I watched a child melt down in front of me. A very articulate child was unable to sum up what he was thinking and feeling as he acted out in ways I had not observed before. As I struggled to maintain patience I was struck by an old and familiar feeling. It was like looking into a mirror of so long ago. Thankfully that image quickly vanished as I worked with him to make sense of his feelings. We both struggled to tease out what was getting in his way of feeling content, safe, happy. As we worked through this I realized that it was a kind patience that helped him breathe, relax, share, and thus recognize and name his worries.
As the months of this last year in teaching fly by, I find myself wondering if I can summon the same patience I had for that child yesterday to use with myself. Can I take the time needed to name and uncover the mixture of feelings I’m experiencing as this time of transition takes center stage in my life. Again I reflect on yesterday’s interaction and what looked like a childish lack of self control but was actually astute observations about a loved one mixed with a child’s inability to process those observations and feelings. I realized how his strength and bravery, even though a bit misguided at that moment, inspired me to be brave and acknowledge feelings I’ve been trying desperately to deny. I saw in him, at that moment, the importance of the work ahead of me if I am going to gracefully move into this next phase whole and intact. Yet again I am reminded and amazed by the lessons our kids can teach us if we are open and able to hear them and see them. Maybe that’s the loss I realize I will feel the most. The guiding stars that they often are to me in my own personal journey onward. But then I think about sleeping in late, having an extra cup of coffee in the morning, morning walks with my best friend, and it all feels a little better.
May you give yourself the gift of time and take that time to be patient and gentle with yourself.