There is a little girl in my grade two class that is lovely. She is sweet as pie and cute as a button, and quite possibly physically smaller than my own little girl (who isn’t very big!) in kindergarten. And there are many moments where I don’t know what to do for her. She will struggle and yawn through class, tell me she misses her mom, asks at least three dozen times per hour to go to the washroom, and if she can’t find something, it normally got left at home, or perhaps, chance among chances (!), made it to where it was supposed to be, which in turn, left her wondering where it was. She struggles with the academics of school and has a seemingly bottomless repertoire of unspoken excuses that seem to confound the probability of any work ever getting completed. The same tired little girl bounds out of the classroom for recess, bounds in with her Girl Guide Cookies for sale and always says good morning. And I am reminded that she’s still just a little kid that’s trying to figure all this stuff out.
Each month I create a workbook for them, individualized for my learning groups to meet them where they are at, to see if I can’t move them along so they can find success in themselves and not within the measure of the classroom. It will soon be time for new ones, so we were tying up the proverbial loose ends, so I left sticky notes on the pages that were really important to me as the teacher. One of the pages, without a sticky note, was a connect the dots.
Once the class began working I started to do some conferencing at my desk with students that need help. Occasionally I’ll let a couple up at a time, but I really try to keep it to one-on-one, just so I can figure out what they need, see where they are at, or just to check in and say hey how are you doing? Both the kids and I look forward to this time and about 10 minutes into it, my little girl arrives. “Mrs. Carson”, she says, “how come the connect the dots didn’t have a sticky (note)? I really need to do the dots”. And I couldn’t help but smile because those great big eyes of hers really did let me know that she needed to do the dots because she COULD do them and that there was enjoyment there for her in it. And that she had waited a long time to get there and now she was so close, but I hadn’t sticky-noted it as important, but it still was. And I found a sort of solitude with her from where I was at last Monday, where I had worked and struggled to get to where I could do something with ease, something fun… and someone hadn’t put a hot pink post it on it to mark it as important and I was stuck doing the same thing when I just didn’t want to, just couldn’t do it anymore. I felt for her and said yes, she could do it and I put a sticky on it. It was important.
About two years ago my sister gave me a book of poetry called Travelling Light by Brian Andreas and I will tell you that if you ever have the opportunity to pick something of his up, you should. It is one of my go-to books to read and re-read and smile and cry at, and tonight in the bathtub, there were a few old things that made brand new sense.
trying to follow in the footsteps of the masters, but it’s a lot harder than it looks because even though they had the same size feet as us, they weren’t looking down the whole time while they walked to make sure they were doing it right
And in light of my last Monday, I am reminded, probably more gently than I have reminded my little girl who gets so tired so easily, that I have a lot more living under my belt, a lot more practice with numbers and subjects and nouns… a lot more time to have learned from my mistakes and sort out what I really do need in life to make it work and make it sound and make it mine. And I was reminded that it is my job to not just deliver a curriculum, but to also help her open herself up to this wonderful life that isn’t always easy but so full of good stuff that it makes us happy inside, and so glad to be where we are, right now, in this moment. And Brian Andreas said it so well again when he wrote “if there is any secret to this life I live, this is it: the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can. & there is nothing more to it than that.”
So here is to connecting the dots. And grace. And learning lessons that taught us so kindly that we can hardly help ourselves to do anything other than pass it on in hopes that someday someone will also understand.
“resorting to connecting the dots this morning because it was a long night & he’s needing to do something really simple to get started again” ~Brain Andreas