It was a chance for parents to get to know their child’s middle school teachers. We would spend ten minutes in each classroom listening to the teacher share his or her educational background, classroom procedures, and expectations. I wasn’t expecting to hear anything earth shattering that night, but I did. As soon as Mr. B began talking, I sensed I was in a very special place and there would be an important takeaway. My hope is that my takeaway becomes yours too.
As parents settled into their seats, Mr. B immediately noted the stack of index cards in the middle of the desks. He invited us to take one and write down our child’s passions. “Connecting with each student is very important to me,” the science teacher explained. “Tapping into what makes them excited … what makes them come to life … is my goal,” he explained.
But here is where I went from simply listening to actually feeling his words:
“Nothing pains me more than walking down a school hallway and seeing a desolate look on a child’s face, like they are in prison. It pains me because that was me,” he said. “School felt like prison. I dreaded each and every day. Creating a classroom where kids are excited, comfortable, and known can make all the difference.”
And here is when two warm tears slid down my cheeks:
“Parents, I never want students in my class to stress if they need an extra day to prepare for a test or complete an assignment. There is a fine line between pushing our kids and understanding they have lots of things going on. I don’t want them to stress about my class,” he said reassuringly. “Have them talk to me. We’ll work it out.”
I felt a collective sigh of relief among those sitting around me. We’d never heard such a thing—perhaps in our whole lives. Just imagine how the students felt when they heard this beautiful offer of compassion and understanding. I thought to myself getting teary again.
Just then, the intercom sounded. The ten-minute session was up; it was time to go to the next class.
I didn’t want to leave.
I wanted to hear more pressure-relieving words of wisdom from this kind and generous educator.
“Oh, and if you and your child see me in the community, please walk up and say hi!” he said loudly over the pushing in of chairs and departure commotion. “I promise you won’t be bothering me. I never stop being a teacher. I am all in.”
He’s all in.
I looked down at my index card. I’d filled up both sides, my handwriting getting smaller and smaller towards the end. I had so much to say.
He’d asked about my girl—my smart, funny, conscientious, bright, beautiful girl. But because she is quiet and shy in school settings, people often never know who she really is.
But he asked. And more importantly, he wanted to know.
He’s all in.
And my heart nearly burst with gratitude because of it.
I stood in line behind all the other parents who wanted to shake the hand of the man who was creating an optimal learning environment for their child to thrive. Many of us hadn’t met anyone like him before. As expected, the gentle teacher looked into each person’s eyes and appeared grateful for the opportunity to meet them.
When I got home, my daughter asked which teacher did I think was her favorite.
“Mr. B,” I said without hesitation.
She smiled. “He is so kind and interesting, Mom. I am so glad I got him for a teacher.”
I sat down on the kitchen stool, anxious to tell her how he moved me to tears (minus the tears part because she would have been mortified by that detail.) “Mr. B asked us to fill out an index card detailing what you’re passionate about,” I told her. “He wants to get to know each one of his 150 students. Isn’t that remarkable?”
“Wow! What did you write?” she asked curiously.
“I took a picture so you could see,” I said handing her my phone.
But her question didn’t require an answer. She was already reading my comments. A look of pure joy and peace settled on her face. Yes, she was known … and she wanted to be known. But don’t we all? Yet, oftentimes, we’re not. But Mr. B gave me hope. Which brings me to the takeaway I promised you:
Your child may not have a teacher like Mr. B and possibly never will. But there is something to be learned from this man that we can all use and offer today:
Connection – let us remember it is the key to understanding, acceptance, and assurance. It offers refuge from the pressures and critics of the world. Connection provides a secure foundation for human spirits to grow and flourish.
Pressure – let us be flexible with our demands and expectations. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that a task or goal doesn’t have to be completed on our timeline or in a specific way. The healing and hopeful words, “don’t stress,” are a gift we can give to alleviate pressure and focus on what truly matters.
Availability – let us be one who is approachable – no matter how tired we are, no matter how busy we are, no matter how bad of a day we just had. If our children approach us, let love never be ‘off the clock.’ Offer a loving hello and an “I’m so glad to see you.” We might then become the one they seek out in times of despair and challenge.
Knowledge – let us never stop wanting to know what makes our loved ones excited, curious, passionate, and alive. Start a collection of index cards documenting what you are learning about your beloveds. Share it with them. Let them see how wonderful you think they are. And if you don’t know their passions, make it your mission to find out.
Today holds the opportunity to notice desolate faces as they walk through the hallways of our lives. As Mr. B reminds us, we hold a precious key—one that opens a passageway to potential with plenty of room to breathe.
I’m all in.
How about you?
Let’s fill the world with index cards, writing love on every line of our beloveds’ hopeful hearts.
UPDATE: AUGUST 2019: Over the past two years, I set out to talk to as many young people as I could to find out what they most needed the adults in their lives to know about the daily stressors they faced and how we can best support them through these difficult times and territories. These findings became part of my fourth book which is now available for pre-order. I am excited for the opportunity to share what I’ve discovered in a live presentation at Mt. Pisgah High School, 9875 Nesbit Ferry Road, Johns Creek, Georgia this Sunday, August 25th at 2pm.The strategies and inspiration offered in this presentation will empower parents and educators to fully understand what today’s young people are up against and help them adapt to the new realities by practicing acceptance, pursuing peace, and exploring purpose so they can model it for the young people in their lives.
Please join me for this special event which will include a performance by my daughter Avery who recently released her first single on iTunes called JUST BE. All proceeds from this event benefit All About Cats Rescue & Adoption, an organization that is near and dear to our family. Grab your tickets here; seating for this event is limited.
If you would like a visual reminder for your home or classroom that inspires the building up of the young people in your life, the Presence Pledge print has been drastically discounted for back-to-school. See the Hands Free Shop for wearable reminders to choose connection and love over pressure, distraction, and criticism.