His name was Paul and he was a kindergartener. Paul was taller than most of his classmates but wasn’t quite ready for the NBA. For most of the day, he was compliant, cooperative and generally easygoing. While he didn’t display anything approaching genius, that status is usually difficult to achieve in kindergarten.

Toward the end of the day, we split into four groups. One was assigned to computer work and all of its participants needed assistance with log-in.  Another worked with flash cards, connecting words with pictures. The third group’s members dedicated themselves to reading books in a configuration known as buddy reading.

Paul was part of the fourth group that was doing a word scavenger hunt. The teacher had placed word designations throughout the room, labeling the desk, whiteboard, bookcase, sink and other locations with small paper signs.

Watching him was one of the most gratifying and inspirational events I can remember. He dashed back and forth in the classroom, recording as many of the placards as he could spot. His eyes were bright, he punctuated each discovery with a fist bump and I was observing someone powerfully engaged in discovering the power of language.

The process was so competitive and personal that he never shared his findings with the other group members. At the end of the day, he proudly displayed all of the words that he had found, persuading himself that none of them were still unidentified.

It occurred to me that he had probably completed the same activity in the past and I had no way to determine whether or not the signs were in new locations. It made no difference to either of us. Celebrating his accomplishment, I pointed out that he had achieved something special because some of the signs were hard to find.

My hope is that he continues to nurture this passion for learning. When I see him again, I will congratulate him on his earlier victory and present a new challenge. His passion assures me that the future of our next generation is on the right track. Shalom.

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