Teach me

Post by Minna Kim for the Laughter Lover series.

In those rare moments I find myself lost in the depths of a child’s
eyes, I remember the beauty and complexity,the complex beauty, the beautiful complexity that resides in each of us, which knows no age. We each take flight
-in our own way. 

Completed on 10.08.08 at 11:41 pm…inspired by my 3rd grade student, Darian. We were all standing in line, leaving our class, and I happened to lock eyes with him. In that very, very brief instance, a very intimate fleeting moment, I was reminded of the timeless humanity, heart, vulnerability, fragility, resiliency, and potential in each being.

It was my first year teaching. I was Ms. Kim, 3rd grade NYC public school teacher in a low socio/economic, Spanish speaking community. And the look was piercing. The depth in his eyes was not those of 8 year old Darian. It held wisdom and solemnity, uncharacteristic of his mercurial tendencies. It was difficult not to look away.

Here I was, the adult of the group, the one who was supposedly all-knowing, educating the young minds of tomorrow. Yet in that instant, I suddenly felt unnerved and exposed. Am I really capable of teaching? I’m such a fraud! I can barely take care of myself! Shit, the students know.

And at the same time it was sobering.

“To inspire and to teach have always been a part of my character. Just as I have been given precious opportunities for discovering my dreams, my drive, and myself from educators in my life, I would like to do the same for my students, beginning with passing every one of them into the next grade with a little more confidence and ambition. I believe that is the beauty of teaching: if a student finds that he or she can learn, confidence and self-esteem can build, and from that an entire world can be affected. Realistically, my idealism is very difficult, if not rare, to come by, but I have witnessed great changes in great strides from educators in my life.”

That is an excerpt from my autobiography, a required assignment prior to beginning my studies at Teachers College. Combing through my paper, the words hint at my ingenuous understanding of education and life. In a nutshell, I stepped into the world of education with my badge of honor to serve and galvanize young minds to take on their calling as social agents of change responding to the call of duty, bringing justice to us all!

Cue the “womp womps”.

Yes – my first year of teaching was exhausting and disheartening.

Now, into my sixth year of teaching, my perception of my role in the classroom has evolved into a hybrid of ideas; old and new, revolutionizing and humbling…mostly humbling. I am perpetually rejuvenated by my students. They are my teachers in living and loving. My young students have been and still are some of my most carefree, joyful, hilarious, veracious, present, wise, compassionate, and unconditionally loving beings I have had the privilege of meeting. Whether I make a conscious decision to pause and simply notice or am taken by surprise, they have gifted me with sprinkles of delight, downpours of sheer happiness, and everything in between. They have shown my heart: 

• There are SO many things to smile and laugh about! Especially when they don’t make sense to anyone else. 
• Farts are funny. 
• Dance like no one is watching…just watch the person next to you so you don’t clothesline them by accident. 
• Hugs. All the time. The more random and frequent the better. 
• Tell stories. They’re like magic. 
• Smile with others and the world.

• Express gratitude. And it’s perfectly peachy to own up to the fact that you’re cute.

• Give a random card on a random day, just to express your love. Bonus: don’t write anything in it, let the card speak for itself!

• Draw. Then imagine yourself sliding down a rainbow on those particularly tough days.

• Sharing is caring. And wishful thinking for others is all-around warm and fuzzy.

• Find ways to give the gift of happiness to others. And tell them they’re pretty (but maybe leave out the comparison.)

• Forgive and love each other because life is too good and fun to stay unforgiving.

In the same vein, they have humbled me in ways that were often uncomfortable or difficult for my ego to admit or heart-achy and taxing. They are my barometer for where I am in life and what my heart is trying to tell me. All it takes is a certain kind of look (see above) or my reactive response to a student who just needs some help with his work. They have shown my heart: 

• Pain is pain. It’s ok to be upset because your cookie fell on the floor or your friend just called you a name. We all feel it in different ways. It’s how you choose to handle it that matters.
• If you don’t understand something right away, it’s ok to take your time trying to understand it by exploring different ways of comprehending something. It may take a lot of patience and hard work and an understanding expert or two to help you get there.
• We all just want to express our truth. And it can often move us to tears, possibly because we aren’t often presented with the opportunity to this, so it can feel scary and awkward.
• It’s helpful to know someone you can go to for support.

• Sadness can be just as contagious as a yawn. And we all need some alone time.

• We all just want to love and be loved. Even when it may not seem like it.

Each day in the classroom is a potpourri of life lessons and reminders. I am grateful for this journey in learning to open my heart and mind to the education I am receiving from my students and through the community we are building together. I hope you will join me in this spring series of teachable moments, brought to you, by my 2nd graders!  
Thank you, Lara and to the readers and contributors of KOM for this opportunity in sharing the wealth of beautiful, complex wisdom and love I am privileged to receive 180 days out of the year.

I believe that is the beauty of teaching: if a teacher finds that he or she can learn, confidence and self-esteem can build, and from that an entire world can be affected.

Hello, my name is Minna. I am presently a 2nd grade NYC public school teacher residing in Brooklyn, NY. I am a lifelong learner, constantly seeking ways to be schooled through living, loving, and practicing mindfulness.


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