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Gifts

If I am very lucky, I have one student a day whom I can identify and empower for his or her kindness, attitude, cooperation or all of the above. This was one of those blissfully special days that remind me of my mission and blessings as an educator.

He was a tiny, effervescent and thoroughly obedient little man. We’ll call him Jesse. For my whole day with him, he required no correction or discipline, remaining quiet and attentive.

At approximately 1:45 pm, I called him to my desk and told him in a small and private voice that he was absolutely special. We looked each other in the eyes and I went on to advise him that he was smart, kind and had everything it takes to be anyone he wants to be.

Jesse confided that he wanted to be a ninja, to which I responded that he would be the best ninja there could ever be. Within the next two hours, he returned to me at least three times, advising that he also wanted to be a football player and for no apparent reason at all, other than to maintain our connection.

While I individualize my attention and work to connect with every child on one level or another, this one was extraordinary. Whether it was the words used, the tone of my voice or the look on my face, he knew how special he was and is.

This day in kindergarten, I had the time to let kids use my construction paper and stickers to create whatever their imaginations may produce. We had castles and crowns, dinosaurs and dragons, farms and families.

Early in the project, I indicated that the more paper and stickers they used, the lighter my bag would be to carry to my car. At least one little girl remembered that statement. As we were cleaning up, she scurried around, assuring me that she was working toward making my bag as light as possible.

But the best gesture was one last visit from Jesse. As he and his class prepared to go to the gym, he stopped one more time to see me. He handed me a sticker of a bus, saying nothing but putting it in my hand. After I thanked him profusely, I attached the bus to my writing sheet, and he went on his way.

No amount of money, accolades or appreciation could compensate me more than the bus or the look in Jesse’s eyes. Two or three sentences may well have improved his day, his semester or his life. Reading, writing and arithmetic remain vital to growth and becoming responsible, functioning adults. But believe that if every educator finds and enables one Jesse each day, we will all make immeasurable contributions and receive indescribable gifts to ourselves. Shalom.

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