I’m going to tell a love story. It’s not one of those cheesy story where one person miraculously finds another, and they adjust their lives to accommodate for their new, beautiful relationship. It’s a story about a group of people, and the beautiful ways each person expresses pure, genuine love for every single person in the community. This is a story about how lucky I am to have seen and felt love in my classroom.
Recently, I have seen a shift in my role as a teacher. There have been days when my children are so in love with the world that they become their own teachers. They are in love with the materials in our classroom, so they are delightfully engaged in play all day. They are in love with the quest for knowledge, always eager to construct more truths about the world. When they ask questions, their hearts are so open, so ready to fall more deeply in love with the world they live in. And they’re answering questions for each other, eager to share what they know with those they love.
They are so in love with each other. Full days have gone by where I have not had to mediate a single conflict. When conflicts have come up, my children would tackle the solution together. It is a beautiful thing to watch three and four year olds realize a problem, acknowledge the deep importance of it, and then work together to negotiate a solution. If the conflicted parties were unable to resolve the issue themselves, there was always another friend to help out. My children were so full of love for their friends that they would stop everything to offer their support. It’s a beautiful thing.
These expressions of love are part of what I expected when I started teaching. I knew that an unwritten implication of my job description was to encourage acts of love with everything I do. What I did not expect was that I, too, would be the recipient of love.
For some time now, I have planned to move from Asheville to New York City for graduate school. To help myself process my feelings around this transition, I directly addressed my emotions around the move. The first time I talked about it, I told them that I was sad to leave all my friends. I told them that there was not much nature in NYC, and that I would miss the mountains and hiking trails. I told them that there were lots of trains in the city, and I was excited to ride the train everywhere.
During this first conversation, I was not sure who was listening, or what they were processing. But that next morning, I had a number of parents tell me that their child had talked to them about me moving away. I watched as some of my children started taking frequent pretend train trips to New York City. One of my boys brought in his book about the subway system. These gestures might seem small, but they meant the world to me. My children were telling me, “You are so important to me that I want to be part of your transition.”
As my last day in the classroom got closer, my children continued to bring themselves into my transition. They asked me lots of those opened-heart questions (When was I going to come back? Would I miss them? Was I bringing my cat?) and they gave me tons of extra-long hugs. One of my boys kept telling me that he would miss his friends when he went to the beach. I knew what he was telling me. This was his way of empathizing. He, too, knew what it would feel like to be away from those he loved. He was assuring me that it was OK to be sad, and that I do have some wonderful people who love me no matter where I am.
This is a love story that has one of those sad, but beautiful endings. My last day in the classroom has passed, and I do miss my children and coworkers terribly. I am moving in a matter of weeks. Even though I know some of these goodbyes are permanent, I am lucky enough to have felt the love from these children. My transition will be easier because I know I have their love in my heart. And I know these children will continue to love in beautiful and unexpected ways. This love story will continue for the rest of their lives.
-“But of course it isn’t really goodbye, because the Forest will always be there… and anybody who is Friendly with Bears can find it.”- A. A Milne, A House at Pooh Corner