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Unknown

One of the aspects I like best about teaching is what I call the unknown. While that may seem like a negative, it’s what I consider boundless opportunity.

It works like this: In my first grade class is a young man I’ll call Isaac. For all the time that he and I are in the same space, he utters not one word. I’m not sure if it’s a language difficulty, shyness or something else. It doesn’t matter. Every time we look at each other, he looks me right in the eyes and smiles. Evidently, I’ve made an impression that elicits a smile. The other explanation is that he smiles at everyone or all adults. My preference is the first interpretation.

In a different context, I tell my class that I need to leave because their classroom teacher will soon return. The responses are, “Awwww,” “We don’t want you to go.” Maybe I taught them something important about penguins. Or maybe I communicated that I care about them.

What a happy place to be! We sometimes get only one brief encounter to impact a child and we often don’t know the precise identity of that impact. The only component for which I have control is my teaching and its encouragement.

Try as I may, I can’t think of too many professions that have occasion to dispense care or some other positive commodity without knowing its outcome. Doctors save lives and are rewarded accordingly, both in terms of professional gratification and gratitude. The same can be same for firefighters, police officers and members of the armed forces.

But I like to think of my role as the education good fairy. When I am present in the classroom, I distribute information, compliments, affection and whatever else is required by the moment. If I am very fortunate, I am the teacher that this child will remember in one week or month or year or decade. If not, it doesn’t matter at all. They shared some space with me where I gave them personal attention and a sincere intention to improve their self-confidence. If that’s not fairy dust, I can’t imagine what is. Shalom.

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