Today, I switched things up a bit by substituting for a first grade class. All year I’ve been with 5th graders, and the past couple weeks I’ve been working with 4th and 6th graders as well. Going to 1st grade would be a big leap- but one that I felt, for some reason, I needed to make today. I’m not sure why, but I just felt for some reason, I was meant to be there.
I’m sitting in the classroom this morning going over the lesson plans that were left for me, and the kids start to slowly trickle into the classroom. One by one, they timidly come in the room as if I were some lion who make make a meal out of them any second. I made sure to greet each one of them with a “good morning” and explain who I was to them every 5-10 minutes as the classroom began to fill up. Somewhere in the middle of students coming in, searching for papers needed throughout the day, and the whispers of “where’s Miss Corti?” a little boy came marching right up to me.
“Hi! I’m Lucas. I just wanted you to know that the extra pencils are kept over here, the glue sticks and scissors are over there, and that it’s not a good idea to let Hailey and James be near each other. They fight a lot.“
I thanked him for his wise insight and we continued throughout our day. Show and tell, music, reading, spelling, math. Somehow the subject of siblings came up, and who is going to be in the same school as a sibling next year. Lucas, in his loud, confident, first-grade voice informed me:
“I won’t be here next year. I’m going to a new school. My family moved to Roxbury.”
What was initial empathy for this poor little boy who would be forced to leave his friends next year, quickly turned to excitement at that last sentence. I asked him,
“Do you know the name of the school you will be going to next year?” *unsure nod* “Is it the Booth Free School?”
Pure joy and a huge smile crossed his face as he recognized the name of the school I had just mentioned- like he was just told he was going to Disney world. I explained to him that I would be working at that school next year, and he would have to promise to say hi to me when he saw me.
“YES!!! We’re going to be best friends!”
Putting aside the fact that I’m thrilled I’LL know one person in the building next year, I can only imagine the relief Lucas felt when he realized he won’t be completely alone in his new school. Even if its just a familiar face who he had in his class for one day the year before, he won’t feel completely alone. (He and I really bonded today, even before we found this out, so I’m very confident he will remember my name and coming marching up to me again next year!)
This is why I want to do this so badly. This is why I want to work with kids. They are at such a delicate stage- testing out the world around them, trying to figure out how things work. Pushing their limits to determine how far they can go before they fall (or are scolded by mom and dad). To make a positive difference in the life of even just one child make it completely worth it. It doesn’t take any extra special time or effort, but just empathy and love. Showing that you care can make all the difference. Could you imagine how incredible our planet would be if everyone adapted that philosophy? Just showing some general love and kindness to another human being.
That being said, I have a dare for you.
Every morning for the next week, I want you to have the goal of having a genuinely positive influence on the life of just one other person. Not your parents, not your children, not your significant other. I want you to impact someone’s life who you have no obligation to whatsoever. Hold a door, smile explicitly at someone who looks like they’re having a bad day, thank a veteran, help a child tie their shoes, help that elderly woman in the grocery store who needs assistance but doesn’t want to be a bother to anyone. Maybe they’ll turn around and do the same thing to someone else. Before you know it, your one, small, selfless action of compassion turns into a wave of love.
Now go out there and spread the compassion.
I DARE YOU.