Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Measure of Success: Small things with Great Love

Last August,  I started a new job in a public school. Shaken and stirred, I felt like a brand spanking new teacher again. I like change and challenge but it doesn't always like me. The first couple of months have been difficult, to say the least and I haven't posted because I've been exhausted, overwhelmed, and very unsure of myself.

My new position is only geographically a mile away from my former school, but so unbelievably different in so many ways. "Kids are kids"  I say by which I mean, kids are amazing and I love them. Beyond that, the differences abound: background, opportunity, environment, resources, language models, and life experiences vary so much. I've been in this field a long time but with this new position, the learning curve has been steep and winding.

This morning, my daughter, an accountant asked me, " So Mom, how is it going at work? Better?"  Hmm.... I thought back to Friday and the fact that two kids hugged me. One little boy, clad in a dirty T-shirt and always just one little step away from trouble, had thrown his arms around my waist and said, " MY Mrs. Awe. "  I don't know what that was about but I'll take it. Another girl, tough as nails, fresh from a  disciplinary  hearing, came up behind me and hugged me around the shoulders and laid her long braided hair on mine as she was leaving my classroom for the day. My heart filled up with joy. You know the kind that you wouldn't trade for all the cash in a casino?  That joy. Okay, I thought, that was a good day. Is it going better? Yes, I think it is. My daughter, who counts profits, not hugs, when measuring success, seemed sincerely surprised and even a bit envious.

"Small things with great love" has been my mantra the last few weeks. The system is huge, I don't understand the national and state mandates and mostly I feel pretty powerless. Some of the stuff we do in education is crazy.  But I can offer, as Mother Teresa advised, ... "Small things with great love."  So, I've tried. A smile when a kid tries hard. A joke when they need a lift. A warm hand and an " I'm sorry" when they are feeling down. A high five when they decode a word and a really sincere appreciation for getting to be part of their one beautiful life.

I don't know anymore how to measure success. I suspect it has less to do with test scores and more to do with spontaneous hugs and enthusiasm for learning.  Less to do with achievement and more to do with perseverance. Less to do with great things and more to do with small things. Small things with great love. It's what I can give and what I am blessed to receive.