Seeing Them

Teaching high school students is a good bit different than teaching elementary students, or so I thought. One opening of the lesson Choices and Consequences, emphasizes using empathy in all decisions, and begins with a sing-song-like nursery rhyme.
“I can’t read this to them,” I thought to myself, looking down at the poem entitled, I Found a Tiny Starfish.
I said it in my mind, sarcastically. “I found a tiny starfish. Ha!” I pictured how this would go down. They were either going to laugh me out the classroom or worse, roll their eyes and tune me out for the rest of the lesson.
They were staring at me all tough, how teenagers can do, with slight little frowns and furrowed brows, somehow managing to look angry and bored at the same time. It was time for an executive decision- I would deviate from the lesson, and plunge right into an explanation of empathy.
Suddenly, I saw them. These hard faced teens with their pants baggy and hanging low on their bottoms, these girls with thick eye makeup making them look so much older than they were, but past that, I saw them.  Just kids, really, longing for attention, compassion, love. They were sending the world a message of “Don’t mess with me” but their eyes were still curious, still bright, and underneath, I could see the question, “Do you like me? Am I okay?”
I smiled brightly, a genuine, excited smile.
“Good morning! I am going to start by reading a poem entitled I Found a Tiny Starfish. It’s geared to a younger audience but I want you to stretch your imagination and just go with it, okay? Are y’all okay with that?”
I got some smiles and they glanced at their friends, and I began reading, just as I would to a group of 4th graders, with big eyes and emphasizing certain words.
They were captivated. They listened to every word. They didn’t throw tomatoes at me, or turn their chairs around in disgust. They were precious, and they welcomed a chance to be young again, to be a child.
I was reminded, again, this day, that we all have a child in us, questioning, “Do you like me? Am I okay?” And that no matter what our tough exteriors or fascinating professions, we each have an inquisitive child inside us, willing to be captivated by the seemingly simple moments of life.
It’s okay to let yourself go and be young.
I found myself in a (one-sided) conversation with seagull recently.
“Howdy mister seagull; how are you today?  Thank you for keeping our beach clean.”
He gave me a look and kept pecking.
“Mommy, who are you talking to?” my son asked.
“The seagulls, sweetie.” And he accepts this, because he knows me, and knows how I crave the simplest, sweetest moments in life.
Crave them, seek them, embrace them. They open your heart and keep you young.

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