Ever since I was old enough to babysit, around age twelve, I have been working with children. All through high school I served in our church nursery, babysitting was my weekend job, and I even taught in our high school’s preschool – the Advanced Child Development program.
And after a short stint as a History and Writing double major in college, I “fell back” onto what I knew: I changed my major to Elementary Education. I truly enjoyed it – learning different teaching methods, learning about child psychology, reading children’s literature, and of course – teaching.
But the sad thing was, I took to heart the old quote, “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.” I had somehow led myself to the belief that I had given up my dreams by settling for the only thing I’d ever done well, and that was work with children. Somehow, to me, that was not a talent, and I saw myself as who who “couldn’t”.
A Teacher Affects Eternity
Now, I see things differently.
Many times I have looked back on the teachers I’ve had, remembering the ones that truly inspired me. Miss Jones, for instance, my high school English teacher, told me she believed I could one day become a published author. Mrs. Harvoth, Mr. Thomas, Mr. O’Hara – they all meant something to me – they believed in me, they saw potential in me, and they cared for me. And largely because of their influence – I believed in myself. And as I’ve now spent a career spanning over ten years in Education – from ABA Therapy, to Special Education, to now teaching English as a Second Language, and homeschooling my children – I see myself and teachers in a new light, and a new quote takes the old one’s place:
“A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops.”
– Henry Brooks Adams
Teaching, and therefore also, parenting and homeschooling as well, is indeed a talent. It’s one of the most important skills a person can have, if they are to work with children in any capacity. Working with kids is one of the most important things a person can do, period. And maybe teachers “can’t” in some ways – maybe some of us aren’t great artists or athletes – but I can guarantee that we inspire great artists and athletes, and even more than that.
And you know, teaching is a talent and skill that requires something more than many careers do in order to be truly successful: teaching requires heart. A teacher can have all the knowledge and skills in the world, but if they do not care about the students, they will not be successful.
Sharing of Yourself
One of those things that teaching and parenting – working with kids – requires is sharing of yourself, it requires relating to kids. But how then, do we relate to kids?
We share of ourselves.
We tell stories. We build rapport with them by shared experience.
Walt Disney said, “Adults are only kids grown up, anyway,” and I believe in letting kids in on that big secret is what gets many of them to trust us. When we share our stories with kids, when we let them know, “hey, I understand what you’re going through – I’ve been there myself”, that’s when they can really begin to learn from us.
So: parents, grandparents, older family members: share of yourselves with your children. It lets them know you are “only a kid grown up”, and that you have stories in your life that they can relate to, that they can learn from.
After all, stories are what connect us. And it’s the heart behind them that makes them come to life, that really brings us together – and from there, we can learn, from there, we can go forward.
Photos taken from Migros Aid Indy, an organization that serves the refugee and immigrant community in Indianapolis, Indiana. To learn more about this organization, please visit their website.