You find all the broken crayons.
In the middle of all you do, you sift through the crayon box, find the broken ones and pull them out. Then you melt them down into the Shape of the Month and offer them back to the kids for coloring.
This is what you do.
You dye the pasta because this week the color is red. And if the kids are going to string pasta necklaces, they need to be red.
This is what you do.
You remember who’s bringing snack and who’s next in line for the bathroom and who still needs their applesauce opened and who has yet to finish their handprint turkey.
You lesson plan on the weekends. Let’s be honest — nothing about this gig is part-time. And if you’re out and happen to see something your kids would just love, you’ve been known to reach into your own pocket and buy it.
Did I mention you call them your kids? And you can do that because you know stuff about them. The good stuff. Like which Ninja Turtle is their favorite and how many goals they scored in the soccer game and how much money the tooth fairy brought.
The littles — they love you for it. No, they adore you. Why? Because you don’t just hear. You listen. And you get the difference between the two. And they notice. They really do. They walk into your classroom each week with with stories of the weekend, the ballgame, the birthday party because they know you care. “Mom! I have to tell Ms. Alison!” “Mom! Mrs. Margaret will want to hear this!” “Mom! Ms. Julie is gonna be so happy when I tell her!”
What you give them? Man, it’s just beautiful. It’s selfless and devoted and beautiful. And yes, it’s ABCs and cutting on the line and chrysallis into butterfly. That’s important. But when I give my child into your care, it’s his heart — perhaps more so than his education — that I’m thinking about.
Somehow you get that. You understand that learning only really happens where the heart feels loved. Especially with littles. So you move mountains to create this place where he can grow, make mistakes, find his way — all without fear. His heart was always safe with you.
But get this: So was mine.
Yes, mine. Teachers, do you know these past six years have been about me, too?
I know. It’s unexpected. I didn’t realize my heart would need you as much as it has. You see, I was that mom. The one who walked through the school door with my kid, his backpack and an armful of worries. Sometimes I hid it (at least I tried), but so many more times, I emptied my uncertainties into your arms.
Do you remember:
Is he listening at school? I mean really listening? Are you telling me everything that’s going on? Is he ok?
Why does he always follow other kids around like that? What does that mean? I don’t see any others doing that … Is he ok?
And he keeps telling me this little boy doesn’t like him … Is he being treated unfairly? Omg, is he being bullied??? Does he have friends? Is he ok???
This was me.
With my seams showing. My awkward, incredibly unsteady journey into trusting my baby with another. And every time, Teachers. Every. Single. Time. You handled me with such grace and tenderness. He’s ok. He’s normal. He has friends. He’s doing a good job. And you didn’t even flinch when I asked you the second time. The third. And, yeah, possibly the fourth.
When I carried my concerns into your office, you always gave me a story that grounded me. Goodness, you actually related to me in the middle of my mess. Authentically with no trace of judgment behind your eyes.
When I messaged you, all teary, and said, “It’s been a rough morning. His love tank is low,” you actually went and found him. You hugged him. Said “This is from your mom.” Then you messaged me back with smiley faces and hearts like you do this stuff every day. (Do you????) Who loves you, you said.
Well, apparently you do. All of you. You haven’t just loved on my children. You’ve loved on me.
This job of yours? It’s huge. A week is not long enough to appreciate it. A table full of gifts does not begin to reward it. What you do goes on for, well, ever. It’s alive in the heart of my 7-year-old. My 5-year-old. The heart of each little who has called this their school.
And their moms, too. Yeah.
Teachers. Nothing you give goes unnoticed. Not one bit.
So for finding the broken crayons, for listening to the stories, for calling each one by name, for digging deep to find even more patience, for making the tough decisions (and I know there are plenty), for choosing this job — and not only choosing it, but being present in it — for being whole-hearted …
You are heroes. The best ones come without capes, you know.
Here’s to saving the world. One broken crayon, one child, one mom at a time.