Monday, January 18, 2016

Bouncing Back

Being a teacher can be very rewarding. It can also be very stressful. Which is part of the reason I add to the list of perks on my job the opportunity to hang around with a group of children. All day long. Yes, I can also just as easily drop this on the "stressful" side of the equation, but the thing that keeps me coming back is the resiliency of those short people around me. When you're old, like I am in comparison to the majority of the life forms around me, you can sometimes set an edge from which you can't retreat. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, sometimes there is no getting back to center. It takes a good long while to lighten up.
Kids are not that way. Their memories are not as long, and not as filled with bad days and unresolved conflicts. The grudges they hold are more of the recess-long variety. If a third grader is inconsolable at the beginning of lunch about the loss of their best friend due to some misunderstanding about jump rope or four square, chances are that before the bell rings everyone will be friends again by the time they walk inside.
This is also true for those moments when a student doesn't see eye to eye with me. Part of being a grown up is telling kids "no." I have been hated for that. For hours at a time. But somehow, by the end of the day when they are all trooping out, that crabby face that had been cursing my very existence is suddenly full of smiles once again: "Bye, Mister Caven! See you tomorrow!" The amazing elasticity of moods is fascinating to me. I might still be grumbling and moaning all the way home, through dinner and through the night until I found myself back on that wrong side of the bed the next morning. Ah, the persistence of memory. For the most part, kids can shrug it off.
That's probably why it took a group of first graders to help out Minnesota Vikings' kicker, Blair Walsh. Blair missed an easy field goal in the last seconds of his team's game against the Seattle Seahawks. It doesn't take much for me to label the attempt "easy," since I was safe and warm watching on television, having never before attempted a field goal of any distance, let alone one in subzero temperatures in a contest that would advance my team to the next level of the playoffs. Or send them home. Vikings fans were probably even less charitable.
Except for the first graders at Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, Minnesota. They wrote letters of encouragement to Walsh, who was so taken by their words of support that he dropped by their classroom to thank them personally. I believe that all of our lousy days could be brightened immeasurably by letters from first graders. "Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One time I made a mistake when I was doing a cartwheel. I felt embarrassed. You can still help the Vikings win the Super Bowl next year." We've all made a mistake doing a cartwheel. It's going to be okay. 

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