teachers’ gifts, a love letter

by bam

this is to all teachers everywhere. even if you never taught my children, i thank you. i thank you for being such a dreamer that you dare to stand up in front of a room of potentially devilish children, day in and day out, and be so bold as to plant seeds in their heads that will sprout maybe in a minute or two, maybe a year from now, maybe when they are very, very old and lying on their last bedsheet.

the little hand you see up above is the hand of a little boy, a kindergartener, drawing a picture for his teacher for christmas. he just finished the rays on the sunshine. now he is making the wheels on the old station wagon that drives him to school every day, where he meets his teacher at the curb. he thought she would want a picture of him waving from the back seat of the station wagon. he thought that would make her happy for christmas.

what you can’t tell from the picture is that three months ago he couldn’t hold a pencil, let alone hold it in that textbook “pinch,” just the way mrs. nelson taught him. three months ago that little boy was one of the only kids in his class who couldn’t make a pencil do anything, except wiggle where he didn’t want it to wiggle. three months ago the pediatrician called to tell me the boy “flunked” his fine-motor test, and recommended we take him to the specialists “for sensory-integration evaluation.”

his teacher, a master of many, many years, said, basically, “phoooey!” instead, she backed off the pushing of a pencil. she had him playing with wooden shapes, feeling the curve of a “c” or an “o.” making the straight line of a “t” stand tall and proud.

as the weeks have unspooled, so has the little boy and his grip on his no. 2 lead. these days, he can’t stop. he crouches down on the floor. pinches just so. and unleashes whole universes, dictating the story with every less-wiggly line.

and so, this christmas, he is drawing for his teachers. that’s what teachers do: they sprinkle seeds. they tend their seedlings tenderly. they stand back. let light and air in. keep watering, even when the seed is unfurling deep underground, where no one can see. they don’t abandon their plot. one day, a small green peep appears. and then, as if someone hit the fast-forward, all the unfurling and reaching for the heavens goes ga-ga. a little boy with a pencil can’t stop. sunshine has rays. cats, they sport whiskers. ears even sprout from the odd pilgrim head. the flower, it blooms.

and so in a world where grownups everywhere are scrambling to get mugs and kitchen towels and cards for free coffee, wrapping and marking one for each teacher, i send this: thank you for teaching a little boy to pinch, to not be afraid to have at the paper. thank you for saying “phooey” in the face of the experts. thank you for making a children’s garden so full of delight, so full of laughter that when a little boy puts his head to his pillow, he sighs, and he says, his last words of the day, “i love mrs. nelson. she’s my dream come true.”

to all teachers everywhere, thank you…

feel free, friends, to tell your tale of a teacherly gift…