Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lessons from Kindergarteners


Avery’s mom said he had something to give me as she dropped him off in my class at church, where I’m a volunteer teacher of kindergarteners. He handed me a card with a picture of a church he had colored and glued on pink construction paper. Inside it said, “I’m sorry for being rude."

Usually Avery is an eager listener and energetic participant in classroom activities. Except for one week, when his five-year-old self got the best of him and his mother saw him throwing a toy across the room when she came to pick him up. This was the behavior that resulted in the apologetic note.
This vintage children's book has two covers
with two stories, "The Sunny Side" and "The Sulky Side."

I can think of many occasions when I needed to offer a similar apology for a flash of five-year-old behavior. Acting churlishly instead of graciously, reacting with sarcasm when kindness was called for, finding it easier to make the negative remark instead of a favorable comment. I’ve been guilty of all of these and much more. But even though I remember these unpleasant moments, sometimes reliving them with painful clarity, God doesn’t. He promises not to remember them and says he has put as much distance between my wrong-doings and his merciful thoughts of me as the east is from the west. This is a lesson I review often, repeating it until it’s written on my heart.

My favorite part of teaching is telling the kids in my class the stories of the characters of faith. I want them to know they're not just words on a page from long ago. I love seeing their wide-eyed expressions as they hear about David fighting Goliath or Daniel escaping without a scratch after a night in a den of lions. I want them to know they can talk to God anytime about anything. I love listening to them offer their heartfelt prayers. Telling God they hoped he had a good Christmas and was enjoying his presents, or that they hoped their grandma in heaven was having a good time with him.

But they give far more to me. They show me the very attributes of God I'm trying to teach them. I see in them strength and determination, courage and resilience, exuberance and acceptance. There’s Abigail whose mother died a few months ago and barely spoke above a whisper when she first came to class. Now she asks me to sit beside her to help her color and playfully wants to know what she can cook for me in the kid-sized kitchen. There’s Sarah, who went through a round of chemo treatment when she was just a four-year-old. She leans over to whisper to me, “I had cancer but I’m better now." Life's heartaches that five-year-olds shouldn't have to experience yet.

Every year before the next group of aspiring kindergarteners is promoted to my class, I entertain thoughts of taking a break from teaching. But then I wonder who the next Avery, Abigail or Sarah will be. I don’t want to miss meeting them. That's an assignment I don't want to fail. A lesson I definitely want to learn. 

5 comments:

  1. Thank your for sharing your lessons - excellent points for us all to remember. Thru the eyes of a child, life's experiences take on new meaning. Great article!

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    1. Sharon,
      Thank you! After class, I'm always grateful I spent time with them and resisted the urge to let my feelings rule when they want to convince me I'm too tired, it's not worth it or I need a break!

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  2. This really makes me realize how much I need to find a way to give back. Love hearing how your service is bringing joy and a glimpse of heaven on earth.

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  3. so touching and true about children teaching us as much as we teach them.

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  4. I loved this! I feel the same way about teaching the kids in our learn-to-skate classes. You are an amazing role model for these kids! :)

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