So, today, I jumped up and down for a child. We were celebrating. I was ecstatic... insanely proud. And it was because he sat down with his legs crossed on the carpet without being told to.
For the first time. Ever.
I know... I get excited easily.
But, that's the thing. When a child makes a huge improvement, achieves a goal, or does something really great -- they deserve to be celebrated! Regardless of what the achievement, the criteria for celebration in our classroom is YOU DID IT! Whatever you just did... YOU did it! That criteria is just going to look different for every child. I'm sure all the other kinders thought, "Um... he just sat down. Why is she acting like he wrote a novel?"
That's another one of my favorite things about teaching [I know... if read this blog often, you know that everything seems to be my favorite.] But, honestly, that's one of the best things about working with little ones -- watching them succeed. Whether that success comes in the form of a first-ever-I-read-it-by-myself book or a I-can-finally-write-it-all-by-myself lowercase letter. It's not about what actually happened... it's the fact that it happened.
It kind of made me think about wrapping paper. A little strange... but hear me out.
Although schools are starting to get away from this terminology, everyone still refers to kids as "gifted" -- usually the kids who are early readers and writers. I am guilty as charged. When a little one matter-of-factly reads the title of a book you're holding up before you do, it's hard not to recoil with wonder.
But, celebrating with this little one today made me think about every child being gifted. [Just to clarify- I am not one of those "everyone gets a medal, even if they lost" kind of people. If you lose the game, too bad. Not everyone is going to get a medal every time. Just to clarify. This is different.]
Honestly, every child deserves the chance to be viewed as "gifted" in some way. Whether that was is excellent decoding, amazing artwork, or simply the humble gift of self-awareness, every child deserves a teacher who believes he or she has some type of gift.
Every child has a gift -- you just have to get through the layers of wrapping paper. And, I am honored that my job, as a kindergarten teacher, is to unwrap those little ones and show them their gifts. Because many of them (almost all of them) will not know they are hidden inside there.
Some of them are wrapped in neat, patterned, beautiful paper. They come to school everyday with a new outfit from Justice, a lunch box free from preservatives or artificial flavors, and they never forget show-and-tell on Wednesdays.
Others are simply wrapped in old newspaper. Their shoes don't have laces, their faces aren't clean, and when a camera is pointed their way, they don't smile.
But, the gifts are there, all the same. The newspaper tends to be wrapped in many layers -- and your hands might get a little dirty along the way -- but the beauty inside that box sparkles as bright as the others.
And I hate to say I have favorites. I hate to say I am biased. But, those little gifts in the old newspaper are ten-fold more rewarding when you open the box. In 20 years, I hope to remember every one of my students' names and at least one little memory of each one. But, in 20 years, I know those students who are triple-wrapped with extra tape in last week's comics will be the ones who are burned onto my heart.
Everyday is Christmas in kindergarten. :)