I am a teacher, but I am regularly schooled by a group of 22 six-year-olds. I go to work every morning wide-eyed with lesson plans full of objectives.
Each morning, I review the learning goals of each subject.
Every day, I am left speechless by how much my students teach me: they teach me skills that I, as the adult, need to be constantly reminded of.
I like to think I wear many hats in the classroom, two of them being: teacher and crisis manager. Almost every day, I am met with a number of micro aggressions from my energetic and bright students. Snatching, name-calling, and tears are common occurrences in any lively first-grade classroom.
To say the least, it’s never boring and feelings are always felt.
As I observe my students and try to put bandaids on the wounds of everyday six-year-old drama, I notice how open their hearts are to forgiveness.
Last week, two ‘best friends’ were at it.
It seemed to all start from a disagreement over a pencil, words were exchanged and soon these best friends were best friends no more. One student came to me crying, “You know, Teacher, people are SO mean!”
She had felt betrayed and hurt, and cried the most solid tears I have ever seen. Granted, she was hurt over something minor, but I saw her pain and it was real.
Flashbacks of similar encounters of pain flashed through my head.
About an hour later, these very two students held hands and skipped to the swing set. Just yesterday, I saw them exchanging notes filled with hearts and misspelled words of affection.
What struck me the most in observing this interaction between my two students, was not the situation itself – but their responses. Their willingness to look beyond each other’s flaws and simply go back to being friends.
This year, I was pushed to forgive some of the most painful acts ever done to me. I was pushed to forgive, not because one person demanded forgiveness from me, but because I realized that it was the most powerful way to deal with my pain.
I entered the school year angry and hurt. Upon hearing that I would be placed in a first-grade classroom, I assumed that this new position would bring additional stress to what already seemed to be a horrible year.
However, I was deeply wrong.
Through having the privilege to spend all day with six-year-olds, I was taught to be brave. To be open. To be vulnerable. And most importantly to not let pain ruin one’s day – or life for that matter.
The pain that was inflicted on me is definitely not something that can be made up through a note or a trip to the swing set.
While some things are forgivable, they are definitely not forgettable. They follow you. They haunt you. Creep on you in the most unexpected moments of either happiness or sadness.
They are almost like unwelcome strangers crossing boundaries and entering the most intimate parts of your emotions.
Seeing my student cry in front of me reminded me of my own naivety being crushed by the cruelty of others, even as an adult. As I comforted her, I found that her pain was recognizable to me. She taught me that despite this pain, a cold and life-stinging pain – that the power of forgiveness prevails.
The innocence of my students reminds me too much of the rawness I too entered this world with. They remind me, that behind deep layers of hurt, is a soul that is created to forgive and move on. I’ve learned that forgiveness is a naturally easy act.
However, limits are learned, due to the painful experiences that push us away from the deep instincts of our soul.
I am forever indebted to my students for reminding me of my childhood instincts that I’ve seemed to have forgotten along the way.