One day this year, my third graders dove into a pig pile on the classroom carpet. I often picture them in a heap, skin of all colors, hair curly and straight, feet wiggling, with smiles from ear to ear. They knew this was a precious moment. In schools now, with the pressures of achievement, there is little room for pig piles.
I marveled at their energy. How could they revel so in the weight of each other, when they already shouldered so many of our grown-up troubles? Every morning I sensed the mood of each child. I tried to listen to them while multitasking. Your parents were yelling this morning? Yes, you can have an extra muffin. I’m sorry you did not have dinner last night. No, the world is not going to freeze over like in the movie. Then, the bell would ring and with my posture I would say, Put your troubles down. Stash them away. It is time to learn long division. Many of my students would do it, and all would try.
I am twenty-six, and I believe in children. I’ve realized that the thousands of hours I have spent with them, caring and cajoling and crossing my eyes, have been the best hours of my life. I may have provided the piggy-back rides but the kids carried me.
It still amazes me how, for a sticker or a hug, they will do what we ask of them. They will pick up pencil and paper, their baby sister, or a rifle. With wide eyes they follow our movements and our emotions. I used to think that it was for love that children were so eager to please. But it was not for love that Amelie squinted quietly at the board while her mother saved money for the eye doctor. It was not for love that Anthony sold one book in order to buy another to complete a report for his teacher. It was not for love that Alexis wrapped his sweaty arms around my waist every day after recess. It was, rather, for the love of us—their grown-ups.
We grant them very little power, and we do not realize how much they know. They accept what we give them. They cannot refuse; they cannot ask for more. I believe in children because they live for love, and they live for us.
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