I just got home from one of the most enjoyable works days I have ever had! My 15 minute "reflection time" drive home through the beautiful foothills of Ahwatukee--in this gorgeous 85 degree about-to-rain weather I might add!--has left me full of gratitude and love for what has become my life! I am amazingly lucky!
The kids I work with are some of the most amazing kids in the world. Granted, I may be a little biased about this topic, but I truly am in awe with the caliber of the people I work with! Not one of them shares my religious views, but I see in each of them the mark of a chosen, strong-willed, independant generation. It has intrigued me that even the young man who has been taught to be an atheist, is one of the kindest, most obedient, caring, giving members of the class, and thus a natural leader to others. It has really taught me that despite what we are taught by parents here, we come with the God-like qualities developed in pre-earth life. I want to be more like so many of them!
Now, to talk about how awesome my job is & convince you all to go be teachers ;) Today was Luau day!! While the 6th graders went out to lunch with my lead teacher, I took over the classroom for the 15 others. They cleaned. I mean--scrubbed the place down...with only minimal complaint :) We decorated t-shirts, had a school choir concert, signed year books, and had a LUAU!! For 3 hours, the whole school ran around to different booths--all free!--winning really cool prizes, getting snow cones, and sliding down inflatable slip-and-slides. It was like Disneyland was brought to Keystone! :)
My favorite part by far was when the fire truck pulled up. It took them half an hour to hook the hose up, but the kids didn't care. You would have thought firemen would be shooting ice cream at them, they way they screamed a carried on!! It was HILARIOUS to see what looked like a giant rain storm open up on 200 kids~! After drying off, I let 10 of them stay with me to play a few rounds of Mafia.....ha! Mafia with 4th graders...it went something like this:
Officiator: "OKay, everyone thinks Myles is the mafia. Myles, what do you have to say in your defense?"
Myles: (pretty oblivious to what's going on and the rules of this strange game, but knowing he's now the center of attention) "It wasn't me. Because...I farted."
Nicole: (amidst the squeals of laughter, and me rolling my eyes) "Awww! I'm really going to miss people in this class!!"
What touches me the most is the bond I have developed with these kids. I look forward to seeing them everyday. I had the world's most boring weekend last week--putting me in such a bad mood. 30 minutes into my work day on Monday, my spirits were revived, thanks to these kids & my co-teacher. It's just an amazing experience to work with young minds, eager to learn, and eager for love/acceptance/guidance/etc.
I've come to realize the most important part of my job--and my most favorite--is listening to the kids. While walking them in a line, or just sitting next to them in the classroom, I will constantly ask, "How is your day? How was your weekend? What did you do? What's your favorite movie?". And then I just sit, and listen, nodding appropriately, and validating their feedback with appropriate responses. I have watched shy, challenged, children absolutely blossom under this practice...to the point that many of them were looking for me today--amid the fun of their water wonderland--to tell me about the snow cone they chose, the face they just got painted, the song they just sang karoke to a whole crowd, or just to see if I wanted to come along to their next event! The moments where they approach me are the ones I treasure!
Today was yearbook signing day. Everyone just signs "HAGS" and their name. The first person gave their book to me with the request to "sign". I took it aside and wrote what must appear to be a novel--giving encouragement where needed, complimenting up a storm her insecurities, recalling a few memories, and dishing out advise about building character. It was so nice to be able to sign "Love, Ms. Beth" at the end--just to express that love I feel for them! The first girl looked down at what I wrote with surprise, and not yet reading it...looked me in the eye for one of the first time's in months. I saw the desperate hope for acceptance, respect, and love in her eyes. I held her gaze, and smiled genuine love & acceptance at her. Her eyes beamed, and she left to read what I had put. That was a treasured moment. Having the kids line up so that I would write a novel in each of their books too--was also a treasured moment. I was greatly satisfied to look up and see my co-teacher lost in novelish scribbling with someone's yearbook as well :) I love working with someone I'm on the same page with :)
In conclusion: I am blessed--greatly blessed--with my job. I took a $17,000 pay cut to work this job, and it was the best professional decision I have ever made. I have more in my savings account after 5 months in a low-paying job than I did after 2 years in a lucrative job. I know I have learned to be satisfied with what I have, but mainly I give full acknowledgement of the Lord's hand in taking care of my temporal needs. I remember my Stake President back at BYU--a lucrative Lawyer--advising all of us to never let $$ be a factor in whether to take a job or not. It is SO hard not to do that. The world would teach you we NEED to put money first...but honestly, if you follow the promptings the Lord sends (and pay your tithing), he'll guide you to where you are happiest, can affect the most people, and still put food on your table :) I truly feel as if the windows of heaven have been opened, and blessings have been poured out in abundance!
The quote below is from Thomas Jefferson, imprinted into the walls of his memorial. The Montessori philosophy follows this teaching, as does the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my opinion that this eternal truth is what breeds the strength I see in these children, which inspires my soul :)