The Greatest of These…To the Least of These

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

I Corinthians 13:1

I’m a kindergarten teacher, so I speak a lot of words every day. And in my years in the classroom, I have discovered it is entirely possible for me to speak with the tongues of angels and still sound like a clanging cymbal. You see, kindergartners aren’t always the best listeners (Shocking, I know!). They ask the same questions multiple times a day. They ask questions about what to do next when I’ve just finished giving them directions on what to do next. They want to talk about the most irrelevant things during my lessons. The words just never stop!

“Why is it windy today?”

“Look at my picture I colored! Do you like it?”

“Hwere are my mittens?”

“My dog threw up last night, and it was really gross…”

As their teaher, my job is to teach them to read, to write, to add, and – most importantly – to develop their character. I teach in a public school, so I don’t have Bible lessons or memory verses. I have to be creative in how I teach the children about the God\ and His love for them. In the end, I have discovered the best way to do that is just to love them by God’s grace – and to show that love.

One year i had a class that was emotionally needy. They were great academically – most of them were reading after only six weeks of school – but there were several children with difficult home lives, and they needed me to love them, not just teach them. One of the girls did it first. In the middle of our phonics lesson one day, she raised her had. When I called on her she simple said, “Miss Walker, I love you!” I was caught off guard for a moment, but quickly responded, “I love you too, Honey.” And so it began. Slowly at first, but with increasing  frequency, my kindergarteners would stop what they were doing to tell me they loved me.any times the words were accompanied by a quick hug around my knees. I made sure I always answered and told them I loved them too.

It didn;t tak elong for me to notice something had changed in our classroom. We weren’t just a bunch of people thrown together eight hours every day. I wasn’t just wrangling kids all day. We were becoming a family of sorts. The children bickered less over toys. THey listened more carefully when I spoke to them. And sprinkled through every day like the glitter from one of our art projects were the words “I love you.” Now, don’t misunderstand. Actively loving my class didn’t make them angels. They still argued over the kitchen playset. They still clashed over who got first dibs on the Lego center. And somt=eimtes they said “I love you” because they knew it was the only thing they could raise their hand to say during nap time and not get in trouble for. But on the whole, they were sincere. And so was I. We went from just being nice to each other because we wanted others to be nice to us to being nice to each other because we loved each other.

At the end of the year, my class made memory books. The pages were filled with their favorites from the year. On the last page they had to finish this sentence: “The thing I like the most about my teacher is…” The children wrote a variety of responses. “She taught me to read,” “she showed me how to write my name” and “she ‘teached’ me how to count” were all very satisfying to read as a teacher. “She paints her nails” made me realize they notive far more than I give them credit for. But the ones that grabbed my heart were the children who wrote “my favorite thing about my teacher is that she loves me.”


 

Written by Amy Walker. This article was published in the Spring 2014 edition of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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