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Near Misses

Teaching has to be one of the most rewarding professions out there. I am a very results-oriented person, and teaching gives me the chance to get immediate, tangible feedback for my efforts. It also gives me a front row seat to the growth and development of young minds and hearts. I love it when a student that used to make poor decisions with self at the center suddenly begins to realize that the people around him or her are not just role players in their own drama, but individuals with needs and feelings of their own, and begins to make choices that reflect that awareness, serving others when given the opportunity.

Perhaps even more gratifying, though, are the moments in which my students demonstrate a genuine appreciation for what they have instead of talking incessantly about what they want. It gives me hope that the next generation might just step up and take care of the rest of us when it is their turn at the helm instead of doing what we have done, spending money on ourselves at the cost of future generations. But that’s another blog…

On the other hand, teaching can be stressful at times. A few weeks ago, I was having “one of those days,” having just returned to the classroom after being out for a month following surgery. I was tired, cranky, and sore, and my students were a little too excited that it was Friday. By the end of second hour, I was ready to go home, and then the bell rang, bringing my third hour into my room and one of the brightest rays of sunshine that I have the privilege of teaching to my desk with his daily, “Good Morning, Mrs. Sanders!”

I looked into his face and couldn’t help but smile. This spritely young redhead was grinning ear to ear, looking much as I would imagine he looked as a toddler, his expression open, his pale green eyes, bright and rested.

“Good morning, Honey,” I smiled. I don’t know if I’m supposed to call my students Honey and Sweetie or not, but it doesn’t really matter. I couldn’t stop if I tried.

“I’m having an awesome day!” he announced, dropping his books dangerously close to my coffee mug and scattering highlighters in all directions. I discreetly scooted my mug to the other side of my desk. I needed the contents too much to risk losing a drop.

“How so?” I asked, expecting him to tell me that he got a good grade on a test or that his mom was coming to eat lunch with him that day, something like that.

“Well, first, I tripped and fell over the curb when I got here this morning. Then, someone knocked my binder out of my arms. Then, just now, I bent down to tie my shoe and got poked in the head with someone’s pencil.” He smiled, waiting for my response. I must have looked confused because he continued, using the same voice with me that I use with my students when they don’t “get it” the first time I introduce a new concept.

“Mrs. Sanders, don’t you see? When I fell, I didn’t get any scrapes that show. When my binder fell, it didn’t break and no papers fell out, and that girl’s pencil didn’t poke my eye out. I had three near misses today, and none of the bad stuff happened that could have.” With that, he smiled and took his seat. The top of his desk slid to the side, its bolts having been removed by another student days before. Most of the students that sat in that seat were impatient to have it fixed, moaning and complaining about having to sit there. This boy just laughed and wedged it into place with his pencil.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel so tired and cranky. Instead, I was glad that I had been able to come to school that day, so soon after surgery, and spend time with my students, especially this one. I was grateful for my coffee, the new bottle of Advil in my desk, my comfy desk chair, and sensible teaching shoes. My spirits were lifted, and I spent the rest of the day feeling thankful for my own near misses.

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