(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?
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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.