“Mrs. Launius, I am really going to miss you,” were the words that I heard coming from a skinny, blonde haired, 4th grade boy on the morning of the last day of school before summer vacation. He gave me a quick hug and pulled out a little apple pie from his bag. “Here, I brought this for you.” I kindly expressed that I appreciated him thinking of me but that I didn’t want to take part of his lunch and that he should eat it. (You see, elementary children are typically very giving. They will tell me that they brought it “for me”, but sometimes I wonder what exactly made them think of me when they hand me things like a dragon tattoo sticker or a can of vienna sausages or homemade soap that smells like my great aunt….. yikes!) Anyway, he looked at me like he was a little offended and said, “no, I brought it for YOU. It’s a JJ’s Apple Pie!” I’ve actually never heard of a JJ’s Apple Pie, but obviously, he thinks pretty highly of them and wanted me to have it. I thanked him and told him that I couldn’t wait to taste it!
So, you are thinking… oh how sweet…. a little boy gave her a pie. But, let me tell you the rest of the story. I teach elementary music, so that means that I see each class for 40 minutes, once a week. His class was after lunch. I’m going to be real honest and tell you that on that particular day of the week, I would often spend my lunch break dreading to have his class. He wasn’t a mean or defiant child, he was just silly, disruptive and just would NOT follow directions, like hardly ever. Seriously. I had lost my patience with him on more than one occasion….. you know where you have to step back and count backwards slowly… 10-9-8-breathe-7-6-5-breathe-4-3-2-1. Of all of the children at my school, he would be the LAST one that I would expect to bring me a pie and tell me that he was going to miss me!!!
The bell rang …. school’s out for summer! The students rushed out with their backpacks full of papers and projects and memorabilia from their completed school year. The principal announced that there was going to be a quick staff meeting in the media center before we all go our separate ways for the summer. I locked my classroom door and headed towards our meeting place. When our meeting was finished, I walked back to my room. I stopped in my tracks when I saw what was on the outside of my door. It was a laminated photo of a skinny, blonde haired boy smiling at me. What a sweet face! What did I do to make him leave that there for me? Did I take the time to really get to know him? Did I truly understand why he acted the way that he did? This turn of events baffled me. I expected him to be glad that he would never have to be in my classroom again. He would never have to hear the frustration in my voice when I talked to him again. But, instead, he wanted me to remember him. He wanted me to have a picture of him and a special apple pie! I felt a little ashamed.
So, I guess the take away from my story is that you never know when you are positively affecting someone’s life! Secondly, everyone has a story. I will strive to do a better job of looking past the behavior and look for the good in each child! Each child has value. Each child has wonderful qualities… depending on the child, sometimes you just have to look a little deeper to find those qualities!… but then again, that’s what a good teacher does!
Each child has a story to tell. Are we willing to take the time to listen? Are we willing to reach out and make a positive difference in their lives? Are we? Let’s be done with the busyness and do something that truly matters.