Walking into a second-grade class for my first teaching assignment this school year, I briefly wondered what all the reasons were for returning to the classroom. It required about a minute for me to remember.

Students always regard me with curiosity and a bit of skepticism. As a substitute teacher, I can take the form of anything from the meanest human on earth to Mr. Rogers, updated version. When I let them know that I’m not at all on the mean end of that spectrum, students become more cooperative and kinder.

And speaking of kinder, another part of my profession that I love is the kindergarteners. They are always my first choice when accepting assignments, precisely because they are unfiltered, sweet, and totally without agendas. The best example is walking through the school hallways. I always wave at the kindergarteners. With a mask, it’s difficult to smile at them, but almost always, a kindergartener will wave back at me, regardless of the fact that they don’t know me.

Friday I stopped a young man in the hallway and said, “I remember you!” He was initially uncertain but I confirmed that he had been in my class last school year, and that was all it took to gain his affection. Like most of us, kids love to be remembered. This student was not a behavioral issue – I just remembered his face. In several of the schools where I teach on a regular basis, I do remember names, making a reunion that much more special.

Although I spent quite a bit of time in corporate America, that experience never delivered the type of happiness or satisfaction that I gain through teaching, except when I had the pleasure of working with individual patients in the health care or skilled nursing setting. How many kindergartener waves or secret love notes do I need to receive in order to confirm that I am in the right place? Far fewer that I will receive by May, I expect. Shalom.

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