Friday, February 10, 2012

Let the children come!

I must confess a good bit of jealousy of Lindsay's ability to so candidly share her teaching stories and pictures on her blog -- I would probably get fired if I posted pictures of my kids on here.

(Here. These are my kids.)
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But I can tell you about them! Like any teacher, I totally have favorites. I love all my fifteen kids dearly, but there are those few who tug on my heartstrings in certain ways.

We have had only three girls in our class until very recently, and one of those original three (we'll call her Anna) is an incredibly sweet and intelligent little girl. She just turned two a week or so ago, so she'll be moving up soon, but I'm soaking in my last days with her. She was gone for over a month for Christmas, and just returned to us this Monday -- we actually thought she wouldn't be back, so what a surprise when the door opened! Of all the adults in our room, Anna is most attached to me, and insists on coming to me for everything, even when there's obviously another adult already taking care of the task she needs doing. I really feel like her mom some days.

Now, the best bit: this girl is very intelligent, and very articulate -- she speaks in complete sentences -- but I never have any idea what she is saying. Now, almost six months spending forty hours a week with toddlers, I consider myself very fluent in their stumbling articulations. Anna, no way. She's so obviously speaking clear, complete thoughts, but I have yet to discern their meaning. I can distinguish my name, and sometimes catch a word or two, but after all these months, I still never know what she's trying to tell me. Fortunately, Anna is bright. She comes up, calls my name, makes sure she has eye contact and my attention, speaks her mumbling hilarities, and then grabs my hand to pull me to wherever or whatever is the subject of her excitement/concern.

Yesterday, it was a paint spot on the table, left over from art. So, she helped me wipe it up. Another day, it was extreme excitement over a co-worker's Mickey Mouse lunchbox. At that one, once we were over at the lunchbox, the squeal of "Mickey! Mickey!" was easily understood. Sometimes, she just repeats, "Uh-oh! Uh-oh!" to show me a spill, or a friend who has fallen or been pushed over. Gosh, I'll miss her when she moves up to the Twos class.

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Another sweetheart is a little mop-headed boy, whose blonde curls always seem to need cutting; his bangs constantly brush his eyes. He reminds me of Peter Pan, who was so charming because he still had his baby teeth: this little guy's (we'll name him George) teeth seem so small in his wide smile. This kid is more in love with animals than anyone else in our class. When we pull out our plastic farm animals, George and I spend the entire time naming the animals and making their sounds -- over and over. He doesn't get bored of it. But this kid's articulation is in the back of  his mouth, so even though his words are excellent, they sound a little different (Try saying "cluck cluck" in the back of your mouth, with the back of your tongue, but smiling at the same time. That's George.), and he spits with almost everything he says. I know it won't be cute in a couple of years, but it is now, and in a couple of years, he'll have learned to speak properly anyway. They all do.

George is also a cuddler, and, as his words are really good, he loves to name everything he sees. When we're playing outside on the playground, he often comes running up to me and asks, "Up peese!" so that we can name the trees, the cars, the clouds, the airplanes, and all the other toddlers outside by name. He's one of the few kids who calls us teachers by our names -- and he never moves on to naming something new until I 've repeated and affirmed what he's just said. He also loves to pull away and grin at me, then bury his head against my shoulder for a hug and snuggle, then pull away to laugh again. Repeat five or six times. We play this game almost daily, and it makes me laugh every time.

Of course, Anna and George aren't my only two favorites, but I can't write about them all. I mostly wanted to affirm that, even though I often speak of my struggle with discontent at this seemingly thankless or lowly job, God blesses me daily. How can I think it lowly to love these children? I should be learning from them, for Jesus says I must become like them. And on the days I feel selfish and grown-up, I need to say with Him, "Let the little children come!"

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