I am thankful for children, because I am a giant.
6 foot 4 is not gigantic by most definitions, but size is relative. As a high school basketball player, I was tall. As a college basketball player, I was slightly above average. As a first grade teacher, I was something closer to enormous, as a third grade teacher, huge, and as fifth grade teacher really tall. My stature seems to have changed over the last 12 years despite the fact that I haven’t grown an inch.
The benefit of being a classroom teacher with my own set of students was that they could get to know me. I spent most of the day kneeling, in a chair, or even on the floor with students. At the start of this year, I moved into an administrative position and a tiny office. Spending a significant part of my time in an office made me worry that I wouldn’t be able to connect with these students, particularly the youngest ones.
As the ‘disciplinarian’ my size might help in some cases, but being much taller than the students who were told to visit me and having zero connection with them made me worry even more. I wondered a great deal: How could I help a student work through a challenge if they were scared of me? How would a giant, someone literally twice their height, be able to make a connection?
Fortunately, children (especially the youngest) are as kind and forgiving as they come. Wearing a cape and a crown on the first day of school to lead a dancing parade to our all school gathering probably helped. Handing out high fives and memorizing every kids name probably didn’t hurt. But the credit really belongs to the students.
When I walk through the preschool, it can feel like I’m stepping over my son’s matchbox cars, trying to avoid both injuring myself and injuring the tiny humans walking around me. From their perspective, I could be Godzilla or King Kong. Just imagine if you or I saw someone 10 feet tall walking around. Would we give them the benefit of the doubt, smile at them, or give them a high five as they walked by. I hope so, but I am a little doubtful.
Children are the most amazing people. They are courageous and caring, trusting and trustworthy. They trust us to pick them up when they fall down, to help them when they get stuck, to make their boo-boos feel better. My job is to earn that trust every day. At 7:30 am, some of them still won’t talk to me, but they send a smile my way. The little girl who wouldn’t say hi now calls me Uncle Chris (and we still don’t know why). It is my job, even when I have to be tough on them, to let them know I care. I am thankful for students who make it easy to do that every day.
So, when I hear my four year old friend say, “I think he’s like the tallest person ever,” to his dad walking down the hallway, I take it as a compliment. Because wouldn’t it be cool if a giant was looking out for you.