I bet we all can remember a formative child playmate: a neighbor, a cousin, a sibling, a best friend. These early relationships are where we explore our self-identity, often from where we draw our self-worth and the context within which we adventure more and more into the world. During school hours, students relate with each other in a multiplicity of ways: as classmates, as co-learners, as competitors and as playmates. In the recent years, we’ve become more collectively sensitized to how bullying can affect a persons’ entire life and be the impetus for a life of insecurity and pain. We’ve also began to make greater strides toward intervening in what was in earlier decades considered “childish fun” or “harmless teasing”.
I can put myself back on that playground and remember when the girls didn’t want to let me swing with them because I ate lunch with Tori and they didn’t talk to Tori. I can also put myself back on that playground and remember how much it meant when a teacher invited me over to a green bench to explain why I was sad. Or how grateful I was when Ms. Cowell distracted Matt from making fun of my show and tell selection or when that nameless first grade substitute gave me a “Good for One Free Hug” gift card when I got left out of recess games.
When I have the privilege to see a teacher that not only teaches and inspires but also notices the small tug of the tearful child to his/her left and intervenes with grace and justice, I remember how these seemingly small interventions add up to a life of self-respect and love. When we are shown such grace, we find it an easier response to extend it to others. May we all show and be shown such grace, and pray that our teachers be showered with an over-abundance of this most important classroom resource.