In a class of twenty-two kindergarteners, I always make a sincere attempt to remember their names. In some situations, my acknowledgement of each child is critically important. This was the case with a young man whom I’ll call Rocket.
Rocket (not his real name) was smart, attentive, respectful and all those attributes that are desirable in a student. Early in the day, he made it a priority to ask me if I knew his name. Because he and his name were noteworthy, I offered it to him and received a broad smile in return.
Suddenly, he and I had a connection that will stay with me forever. As they were constructing an art project, he diligently produced two ladybug stickers that I firmly attached to my security badge. To accentuate the significance of his gifts, I assured him that if anyone ever asks about the origin of these stickers, I would reply that they were gifts from Rocket.
Designating children as special makes them exceptional. When children gathered on the carpet for story time, he made certain to be inches away from me, adding that I was the best teacher he had ever had. (Keep in mind that his experience was probably limited, because this is early in the semester and he’s in kindergarten. That fact really doesn’t matter.) With a very small voice, I responded that he was the best student I’ve ever had.
To say that his affection touched me deeply is the same as saying that earth is a significant distance from the sun. While we were in the playground, students devoured their special popcorn treat. Rocket made it a distinct point to hand kernels of popcorn to me on two occasions. And when it was ready for him to leave for his school bus at the end of the day, he dropped all of his possessions to find me for a goodbye hug.
If I am fortunate enough to encounter Rocket again in my teaching, I suspect that we will spontaneously remember each other. If that doesn’t transpire, I believe that he will always recollect the time when he was the best student a teacher ever had. The best possible outcome is that I helped launch him to personal and academic heights. And if none of those materialize, he and I will have shared the delight of being elevated by each other’s company. Shalom.
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