During the first week of school in Okaloosa County, teachers are required to eat lunch with their students in the cafeteria. It's a great time to get to know your new charges on a personal level. Most days now, "lunch" consists of my wolfing down something while simultaneously working on getting ready for Math after lunch, but maybe I need to eat with them every once in a while just to experience something like that which happened that first week.
It's the very first day, and I get my lunch and sit on the corner of two tables, between a boy wearing a ninja turtle shirt and sporting a green mohawk on my right and a sweet freckle-faced little girl with ribbons in her hair on my left.
At first the boy dominates my attention as we talk ninjas, turtles, and ninja turtles. We disagree over which is the coolest, but do so agreeing to revisit once I learn more. It's a slam dunk that I will learn more during the year, as TMNT trivia along with Pokemon traits are hot topics for third grade boys.
Then the little girl tugs on my sleeve and gets my attention. Looking up, she says, "Mr. Wilson, you are my first boy teacher. Are there many of you?"
It took everything I had to keep from bursting into laughter. It was as if she was studiously observing an animal so rare that just being in its presence was a treat. I was trying to decide whether a white rhino or unicorn would be the best avatar when I replied, "No, there aren't many like me in elementary schools, not many at all. But I LOVE teaching third graders like you!"
She grinned from ear to ear, and I looked in the other direction and every one of the others was grinning back at me too.
Tonight, I'm tired and cranky after spending hours planning and grading. I gave everything I had to give this morning at church, enjoyed a great lunch with friends from New Hope, and took a quick nap in the afternoon. But the next 6 hours were intense work, and it wears on you.
So I chose to write this so I could focus on why I teach.
God put me there to make a difference. And I believe I make one.
A rare one. :)