This is about Minna from March 2014. She's one of my favorite students/teacher aides/people ever.
Teachers have rituals and the longer you teach, the more you accumulate. Some are personal. With me, it's a five minute nap at the end of lunch before my day ending back to back to back teaching periods. With my classes, it's random bonus questions (thanks, JK!), touching Luke 18:1 as we exit after the bell, and boys standing up when girls enter the room. But teachers also have little rituals with kids that only the teacher and the student or a small group of students are aware of. For example, everyday Dani and I verbally exchange the initials GHD when we pass in the hall. (Good Hair Day in case you're wondering!) I give air hugs to all the kindergarten kids when they are sitting/waiting for the water fountain/bathroom- they aren't supposed to stand up but sometimes they forget! Bruse and I share impressions of our favorite TV show Revolution, including the dreaded news it might be cancelled after a two year run! With some kids, I invariably inquire about a brother or sister who used to sit in my classroom. And Margaret still gives me a thumbs up or down daily based on my wardrobe. I could keep going- there are many more with my basketball players each morning- but you get the drift.
And then there's Minna. A junior and my former student in both middle school and tenth grade, Minna comes by to see me every afternoon when the dismissal bell rings. I always stand at the confluence of our two upper school hallways as kind of a teacher presence at a time when the kids have places to go and sometimes are in too big of a rush to get there. If I'm speaking to someone, she waits patiently until that conversation is completed and then we go into our routine. She gives me a high five and I ask, "How was your day?" She invariably tells me it was good and I invariably ask why. It's always something different. One day she loved her English class discussion and the next it might be a good test grade. Often, it's because she is looking forward to her soccer/tennis practice/match. Yesterday, the reason her day was good was the chicken fried steak and gravy Mr. Tony and company prepared for lunch! After the lunch menu discussion, we talked about her being my teacher's aide next year when she is a senior. It doesn't take long, usually about forty-five seconds, And on Monday, we'll repeat the process.
I actually wrote about Minna eighteen months ago, at the beginning of her sophomore year. This is a snippet from that entry:
She is American born of parents from Hong Kong and her folks' native language is Cantonese. I asked Minna, who has never been to Hong Kong, if she has a Chinese name. She responded that she does and very graciously wrote it on the top of her memory verse- that is what you see at the top of this page. But Minna did not simply recreate her name; she explained the meaning of the characters. What I learned from those symbols is that Minna's name fits her like tailored clothes; it's as if she were born to fit into her name.
Do you know what one of her classmates told me in regards to the above blog? She said, and I quote, 'Minna is the least corrupted person I know.' I would add an amen to that sentiment of her good friend as would the others blessed to know her. But this entry isn't really about Minna or the kids I mentioned above. It's about the daily interactions, sometimes only seconds in duration, that shine a light on the life of a child and child here can refer to teenagers.
I hope other educators would back me up here but only 1% or less of what I know about a student comes from reading a file or sitting in on a meeting. The overwhelming source of insight comes from personal observation coupled with communication, even brief communication. It might be seeing a boy or girl nodding in agreement to a point you make on a delicate subject in class or a prayer request left on a quiz. It might be as simple as a fist bump when they enter your classroom, asking about the outcome or preview of a sporting event. I've found that when I act interested in a youngster, they overwhelmingly reciprocate. And yet when I apply this to myself and my spiritual life, I find I'm often too busy to interact with the One who makes it all possible. I sometimes read devotional books- which are insightful and inspiring- and forego communicating directly with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. When I simply read, I let other Christians dictate my thoughts about my Creator instead of supplementing my personal meditations. I realize I may be questioning my own efforts in writing these devotionals but don't depend on me. Or more likely, C.S. Lewis or Oswald Chambers or......... well, fill in your personal blank. Try using your own words in your daily spiritual interactions and please hold me accountable as well! I tend to ignore my own advice.
Applicable quote of the day:
"There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability when you are trying to find answers."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org