Every year that I was in the classroom, I had students who came from various walks of life. I taught Muslims, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and more Southern Baptists than you can shake a stick at. My kids came from divorced homes, single parent homes, happily married homes, rich homes, poor homes, well read homes, and uneducated homes. Some students had 2 dads. Some had 2 moms. Some had 2 moms and 1 dad all in the same house. Some were undocumented. Some were illegal. Some came from families that were die hard Republicans, while others came from dyed in the wool Democrats. Some came from families that didn’t like the beats of rap music and others came from homes where swear words were as normal as hello and good bye. I taught kids of every hue and some who said they thought they should be a different gender. As I type this now, I can literally see every face or every kid that I mentioned above. Man, do I love them. I sure wish you knew them like I did because I have no doubt you would love them too. They are so beautiful not in spite of their differences but because of them.
We talked a lot about those differences in my classroom as they seemed to come up often, but mostly we talked more about how we were all alike. We all loved pizza and fries. Recess was the best. Chris Botti, playing his jazz trumpet made us all feel cozy and want to have a nap. We loved singing around our class piano. The bean bags were everybody’s favorite reading spot. 2 digit subtraction with regrouping was HARD! Every human in the room wanted to be first in line at all times, and we all loved tater tot day in the cafeteria! It’s funny…for my students to be so diverse, they sure were more alike than different.
As I reflect on those years with students during this back to school season, I can truly say that it was an incredible honor to be a part of their life’s story for a short 180 days that make up a school year! But, there is nothing short about the lifelong impact the diversity of my students has had on me. I was in the classroom to teach them, but they (and their parents) taught me so much more instead. Being surrounded every day with those who weren’t like me, especially kids, helped me to see the world with eyes that so many of us need. Soft eyes, not hard. Eyes of respect and admiration. Eyes of dignity and understanding. Eyes of love and compassion. I am so grateful for all that I learned from them. What they taught me made me a better teacher. Their lessons, I hope to never forget. I hope your kiddos are teaching you these same things so you’ll be better too.
Because of my students I learned to…
listen to those whose faith isn’t my own.
laugh with those who lives aren’t like mine.
leap over barriers, not build them.
lead others to compassion.
leave my misperceptions to embrace truth.
level the playing field for all around me.
look at hearts not hues.
lock arms with fellow humans and sparkle all the brighter.
love no matter what.