It’s a world where name calling has become acceptable.
Name calling still shocks them to the core.
It’s a world where we cheer for our tribe, rarely considering that anyone from the other “side” could possibly say or do anything intelligent or kind.
They patiently listen and are willing to examine differing viewpoints.
It’s a world where we carefully consider whether or not we will cheer for one another and then rarely cheer for anyone other than ourselves.
I have lost count of the times they’ve spontaneously broken into applause when someone offers a correct answer or accomplishes a task which everyone knows was difficult for that individual.
It’s a world which continually complains about almost everything. The mask. The length of the pandemic. How everything isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
Not a day goes by where at least one of them doesn’t say to me, “I’m so glad to be here today!”
It’s a world where many are still judged by the color of their skin.
I couldn’t have been more proud than the day a gal in my class said, “I have never had anyone in our class say something nasty to me about the color of my skin.”
It’s a world where power and abuse has become accepted at almost all levels.
They are silent, appalled, and look to me to make right whatever has gone wrong. The person in the wrong is not praised. Yet, the person in the wrong is almost immediately extended grace, by everyone.
We cry together when the book or the topic we are studying is sad or makes us ashamed or shocked. We celebrate in goofy and age-appropriate ways. We laugh a lot. We don’t even have a discipline plan or posted rules. You see, they are buying what is being sold and what is being sold is that they are old enough, and well-behaved enough, and wise enough to be trusted to do the right thing.
In the most politically-charged time I can remember in my life, their curriculum standards include studying U.S. Government and U.S. History. And even in a contentious election year, they treat each candidate with respect. The president is referred to as President Trump. Mr. Biden is referred to as former Vice President Biden. I told them the other day I wished they were in charge. I wish the world could watch how they speak and behave, and follow them. Do they make mistakes? Of course. Yet, I find myself continually mourning the fact that I wanted the world to be a better place for them. And even though I lament the anger and dissension swirling around them in the world, they continue to amaze me.
They are my 5th grade students.
They inspire me, encourage me, and bring me immense joy.
They impress me, make me want to be a better person, and make me want to work even harder. I don’t take for granted that for a little over nine weeks I’ve spent my days with these beautiful young people. If you are a person who has little contact with the next generation, I want you to know, in a small town in northern Indiana, there is a group of children who represent the very best among us. . .the very best. And they and their parents often thank me, but oh my goodness, it is me, their teacher, who should be thanking them.
To my 2020-2021 5th grade class, don’t change! Keep your laughter, encouragement, and goodness because you are making such a positive difference just the way you are. . .you are a concrete example of hope! And I know I tell you frequently but it never hurts to be reminded: I love you and I am proud of you!
Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.