People always want to know how I am. The checkout person at Ukrops is itching to know, my neighbors wonder, my parents entreat, my cat, well, she meows, but even people on the street need to know how I'm "doin," as they say. My grandmother once told my mother that when people ask you how you're doing, they don't really want to know. We're supposed to say "fine" or "well, thank you," not "well, I have this problem with my mother, well, not really with my mother, but, wait, sit down and I'll tell you..." Few people ever want to sit down and hear how I am, especially the checkout person at Ukrops, but if you've come to this blog, you really have no choice but to hear how I am and what I think. Clearly, if you came to this blog, you are dying to know, so, please, sit down, make yourself comfy, and I'll tell you...
Lately, I've been feeling a little stressed. Trying to juggle housework, school, plagues and locusts tires me out. Lately, I've been complaining a lot, I go on and on... and on and on... and on about my problems and everything that's wrong with the world. Not my normal upbeat self, that's for sure. But, there is one thing that has really brought me joy in my life. There is one thing that actually gets me out of bed at the ungodly hour of six or seven in the morning, and that is going to kindergarten. Kindergarten is my cookie. When classes are boring, when assignments are daunting, when the apartment is dirty, the cats need flea medicine, and my computer has just exploded, kindergarten makes it better.
Even as a baby, I was never a morning person. There are very few things for which I will willingly wake up in the early morning. When my alarm goes off at 7am my first thought is "make it stop!" However, I've cleverly positioned my alarm clock across the room from my bed, so that I have to get up to turn it off. Genius, I know. By the time I get to my alarm clock, I've either realized that it's set so that I can get started on a productive day of cleaning, running errands and doing schoolwork (in which case I return to my bed and tell myself that tomorrow I will get up early, but today I need to sleep), OR I realize that it's a kindergarten day. When it's a kindergarten day I pay close attention to what I'm going to wear, I wonder what will happen, who will be in class, and I find myself getting excited, rather than disgruntled about getting up and going out.
I enjoy chatting with my cooperating teacher and the teacher's assistant before school. I like putting the little chairs in place, making books for the kids to color, and putting important artistic creations into the 21 cubbies that line one wall. I love it when the kids start to come in with stories about their grandma, a loose tooth, a dinosaur, or a new backpack. I love going around the room helping them with their work, making comments, and chatting with kids while they work. Sure, by the end of the day, they're bouncing off the walls, stabbing each other with pencils, and creating havoc, but in the mornings they're sweet five and six-year-olds who are happy to be in school and happy to see me, and I love it when people are happy to see me. I stand there, even when they are bouncing off the walls, and wonder at just how much I like being there, how comfortable I feel, how right it all seems.
What surprises me is that I never thought about teaching until this summer. I happened to be out to lunch with a William and Mary student who lives in my hometown, and who has since become a friend, and she mentioned that she was doing the elementary education program. I responded that that was great, and that I loved kids, and how noble of her, and so on, and then she said, "why don't you apply?" I paused. Why don't I? Teaching? People teach? I wish I could say my brain was racing, but, really, I felt like a cavewoman । Simple thoughts and sentences floated in and out of my mind as I sat silently at the table. Finally, after much reflection, I was able to respond to her question. "I guess I should," I said, and so, I did.
All through the summer I said that I was only going to teach for a few years, and then go on to divinity school in Boston as previously planned. Getting certified is a way to get a job straight out of college. It's practical. It gives me a break from school. Everything made sense. The first weeks of school, before I got my placement, I was thinking the same way. Practical. A few years. Go to grad school. Then I went to my second first day of kindergarten. There, I discovered many new things, like, there is something beautiful about people who will come right up to you and ask, "who are you?" And, there is something clumsy about having to introduce yourself by your last name. It's a little, Bond, James Bond. And, little people need little chairs and little tables, and young women who are 5'10" look like giants when they sit in them, but somehow it works for me. That first day, I'll admit it, I stayed longer than I should have. I missed class. I didn't want to leave the little people in little chairs who wanted to know who I am (and perhaps, how I'm doing...).
I marveled at myself. How could something so obvious, Amaya the kindergarten teacher, have never occurred to me before? I know myself well. I study myself, judge myself, laugh at myself... me, myself, and I are all very well acquainted. How could I have missed this? I am so happy, everything feels right and in order and normal, but I can't get over how I, of all people, never knew that this was my calling. How many other people are out there who could be passionate teachers, but have no clue that that's what they want to do, because they're too distracted by "grander" things? What if Bethany had never asked the simple question, "why don't you apply?" Would I have been lost for the rest of my life? For someone who prides themselves on self-knowledge, this is troublesome. It also makes me think when we ask simple questions like, "how are you?" or "how's school?" or "when are you going to get a job and move out of your parents' house?" that we should listen to what people have to say. Simple questions can lead to extraordinary things. A simple question changed my life.
I challenge all three of the people who read this blog to pose a simple question to someone today, and see if you can't change their life for the better. Maybe you'll get a "fine" or maybe a "well, thank you, how are you?" But, you could get a "well, I have this problem with my mother, well, not really with my mother, but, wait, sit down and I'll tell you... I think I want to be an elementary school teacher, but I'm not sure and I really need to talk to someone about it, but my mom lost her cell phone." Don't you wish you'd listened before?