This is the central question I now have Post-Ited to my fridge. Beneath it is one that reads, “What act of generosity did I carry out today?”
As things progress, stagnate, circumnavigate and develop, I can get a little lost in my brain, thinking about things to the detriment of actually doing them, particularly thinking about my relationship instead of myself. Thinking is not always my highest mode of operation.
Therefore, it’s important for me to have a touchstone to come back to, coming back to myself and what’s happening before me and the people around me.
While contemplating this, today’s title question came to me: “What act of generosity can I carry out today?” This helps me to reframe my day and my life to see how I can be of service in the world, and to employ the gifts I’ve been given to brighten said world.
I like the bookend nature of these questions so that, when last night I came home late from our school’s Open House, I got to reflect on what I had done for my students, rather than on the parent questioning me about why their 8th grader’s vocabulary scores weren’t higher on standardized tests.
Particularly, last night, I got to reflect on one piece of joy and light I brought to a family.
First off, my 6th graders are my saving grace. While I enjoy and love (some of!) my 8th graders, depending on the moment, the 11-year olds are my delight. Sure, teaching them during the last period of the day can challenge one’s patience, but that’s my own learning to ensure that there’s something active and capturing for that last 45 minutes of their schoolday.
One of my young students is one of those sports players I mentioned a while ago whom I’ve tagged as a strong writer, and his father stopped me in the hallway a few weeks ago to sincerely thank me for encouraging his son’s writing. I replied that I was only acknowledging the talent that he clearly has.
And last night, that same dad and son came to Open House and, while the son interrupted with apologizing for grammar errors or “it’s not edited yet” interjections, I read them both the latest short story from the boy. The father was staggered. (If I’m not mistaken, his eyes were misty by the end of the reading.) He was so clearly impressed and delighted at his son’s writing, plus it was my pleasure to read this story aloud and reflect to the son that his words (even without editing!) are of value.
This, my friends, is my act of generosity from yesterday. I continue to feel that encouraging the talent of this student and others is my greatest act of generosity—and privilege. While there are good writers in my classes and even poor writers, and I get to find the diamond in the rough of each of them, clearly the ones with writing talent are among my favorites. I can’t help it, I’m an English teacher after all!
I am so honored and thrilled to have done something for this student (and the 3 other parents who stopped me last night to say that their child was absolutely loving my class, some even saying that their child didn’t even particularly care for English before). This is my honor and privilege, and as much as I know there are still hills for me to climb professionally to feel more capable and confident and engaging in my teaching, I feel nearly dumbstruck with gratitude that I get to shine a spotlight into the talent-corners of these children’s lives. Amen.