Named and Known (#SmallWonder link-up)

(I'm happy to welcome Jody Lee Collins here today with a #SmallWonder guest post.  Jody is part of the team that helps coordinate and support this community.  She is a writer, poet, Grandmother, and substitute teacher who lives Seattle, Washington.  You can read more of her words at her blog, Three Way Light.  I really love the story she shares today - there's a sweetness to it that keeps it tumbling around in my heart.  Enjoy!)

I silently knock on the Kindergarten door - helper for the day in my Assistant Teacher role.  I love Kindergarten.  I did my student teaching there—sang a LOT of songs, played games, and sat on the floor and learned words.

Today is one of those days—a learning day—except I am the student.

I teach in a very diverse school district.  The population we serve has changed significantly in the past 7 or 8 years. Our students are 85% immigrants—mostly African, primarily from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Needless to say, school is a challenge for these immigrant children.

Today the teacher asks me to take time with Mamoud and Khalid who are only just learning English. 

Mamoud is silent as he follows, but Khalid’s first words to me as I reach out my hand, are, “Good morning, teacher.”

I am warmed at the thought of appreciative parents who have taught him this important phrase. They know more than anyone the power a good education has and the place of a teacher in that process.

Out in the hallway at a small table, Khalid, Masoud and I look at picture books. One in particular is called ‘Rain’, suitable for our Seattle area day.  I begin with Khalid. He is delighted he knows the word ‘umbrella’ and repeats it every time the picture shows up.

“Umbrrrrellla” he says rolling his ‘r’s. It’s a purple umbrella.

I point to the car in the rain; ‘car’, he says, ‘car.’

I point to the tree in the rain; ‘tree’, he says, ‘trrrrree.’

I point to the flowers in the rain; ‘flowers’, he says ‘flowers.’

But the second time around he is mixed up and says ‘tree’ for ‘flower’ and ‘car’ for ‘tree’ and ‘flower’ for ‘frog’. There’s really no connection between these pictures and my words.

We are both a little frustrated and the boys are yawning and squirmy.

I remember Maria Montessori’s cornerstone words about meaningful work. Changing my strategy, we venture into the classroom. I point to a spot on the floor near the cubbies and the boys sit quietly. 

I know they can tell me their names and probably can spell them.

Names have meaning, especially to the owner.

I grab 3 whiteboards, markers and erasers and join them on the floor, asking them to each write their name.  Masoud is successful and proceeds to add a treasure map to his picture. Correct letters in the correct order, even a capital-ish looking capital ‘M’.

Khalid is stuck.  There is a capital ‘K’, an ‘a’, no ‘h’ at all, an ‘i’ but no ‘d’.  There are also several o’s and m’s.  I assume he’s a little mixed up and hand over hand, help him write his name correctly.

He tries it alone; still ‘K, no 'h', no 'a', an ‘l’, but no 'd', many ‘o’s and an ‘m.’ He is adamant about there being an ‘o’ and an ‘m’—not with words but by the way he furiously erases or pushes my hand away when I try to correct.

He of course isn’t conversing with me; he doesn't know how to communicate what he wants but his actions are speaking volumes.
Aha—Well, I’ll step over to his desk and read his name tag (yes, I was learning, too.)  Around the corner from the bookcase at the round table, there it is, “Khalid Omar.”

Oy. For Heaven’s sake—no wonder we got ‘o’s and ‘m’s.

I return to my spot between the boys on the floor and write Khalid’s first and last name out for him to copy.

The frustration vanishes, his eyes sparkle and he calmly and clearly announces in perfect English, “Thank you!” As in, 'what took you so long? you finally got it! THAT'S who I am!'

It was a simple, small moment to remind how powerful it is and how deeply touched we are when we are named--named and known.

And how life-changing it can be when we are known by our Father God most of all. 

Did I tell you I love Kindergarten?

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we might gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

You're invited to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment. 


  1. What a delightful story!

    Yes, a name is very powerful, indeed.

    I am reminded of a favorite Bible passage, "Fear not for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by my name. Thou art mine." (Isaiah 43:1)

  2. Jody, a most practical yet powerful story. Like Joe above, the same verse came to my mind by the end of the post. Int he NKJV it reads, "But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by YOUR NAME." (Isaiah 43:1, NKJV). The very thought of God, calling out each one of our names is such a humbling & powerful thought. Long before we were, He knew our name. And He's been calling it since. So grateful to have stopped here this morning. Blessings!

    1. Joanne, I am so glad God never tires of calling my name...Hallelujah!

  3. What a beautiful story, Jody! My daughter is interning in a Kindergarten class this semester before she graduates from Auburn. She is loving it so much. I hope to join her Thursday morning to read a book to her class. They have several foreign students in her school as well, and learning names is important. We all like to be known for who we are. God is the master of that. Thank you for sharing this moment in your day. I love your heart.

    1. Oh, Lisa, the world needs more young people who know Jesus and love kids... What a blessing you can go with her and read a story. Story-time--BEST part of any day in Kindergarten. Thanks for reading, Lisa.

  4. This post just made me straight up smile. Thanks so much for sharing it, Jody. You are gifted-- as a writer, teacher AND daughter of Christ :-)

    1. 'Straight up smiles' The best kind~ thanks for reading, Sharita.

  5. Jody, such a heartwarming story! Yes, we all want to be known, don't we? I am so glad that you are being given this precious opportunity to reach out to these little ones. May the Lord use you to impact their hearts with a touch of His love.

    I was reminded of this verse, a favorite:

    "...I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1, NLT)


  6. Jody, did I ever tell you that "I love kindergarten..." Oh, I do! It and first grade!! I also taught ESL so this post gave me smiles all over the place!
    And thank you for reminding me that my name is written on the palms of God's hands. Praising Him too!
    Great post!

    1. Linda, you have told me that. I think that's why we have so much in common. That, and our love of books. Hope you are well~ God bless you.

  7. I love this! I'm teaching through a bit of Ann Voskamp and am reminded of her thoughts on being named. It is in the naming of things that we see the beauty. This is beautiful.

    1. Ann Voskamp is a fabulous resource and such an inspiration. Thank you for stopping by here, I'm honored.

  8. Yes, Jody... so beautiful to be known!

  9. Love the way you connected with these two little boys, and found a way to give them something relevant that day.

    The power of "name" is quite remarkable, isn't it. A couple of thoughts are swirling in my mind: 1) We see a flower, bird, or tree we don't recognize and we immediately want to know its name. Why? Is it just a symptom of our curious natures? 2) When someone remembers our names, we're pleased. There is a sense of value in being known. Why is that important to us? 3) Phrases like "the name of the Lord" appear frequently in scripture. What is significant about his NAME? M-m-m. Thank you, Jody, for a post that's not only heart-warming but also makes me THINK!

  10. Oh, the depths you must learn and re-learn in a kindergarten classroom. I love your student/teacher moments, Jody.