A Small Powerful Moment

My mornings are pretty standard.

  • 7:00 – 7:05: Arrive at school
  • 7:05 – 7:15: Set up for early morning care.
  • 7:15 – 7:30: Greet my early arrivers in the library
  • 7:30 – 7:55: Dismiss groups to their designated spaces and check-in with them.
  • 7:55 – 8:05: Help Kindergarten, then Preschool and PreK get to their rooms.
  • 8:05 – Head upstairs to clean up the library and get ready for the day.

Now, I always make a concerted effort to connect with kids – playing checkers or connect four in the library, tetherball on the playground, or follow up with a student to make sure they are doing well and ready for a great day. I enjoy seeing the kids in the morning, but the routine can become mundane

This morning was like most without any particular highlights. So as I walked up the stairs, I felt fine, but far from excited for the rest of my day. That was when I heard a parent call my name. I had just said hi to him and his son as he dropped him off to class. As he followed me up the steps he said something along the lines of I’ve got to tell you the good news because I know you don’t always get to hear it.

Recently he and his son had gone to a park near their house, the same one they regularly visit. But this time, his son told him, “Dad, we’ve got to pick up all the litter.” Of course, dad was happy his son wanted to help, but a bit cautious about the project with the specific types of litter he saw lying around. Despite his father’s attempt to pick up a few of the less worrying items and move on, his son was persistent, telling him they needed to clean up the park. When dad asked why, he said, “We need to clean the park so everyone can enjoy it.” Dad went to find some gloves and a trash bag and he and his son helped clean up the trash at the park.

Two things make this story especially awesome for me.

One – The boy in this story is only 4 years old. Teaching at a Quaker school, we work hard to instill the value of our Quaker testimonies in our students, to help them make the world a better place. Stewardship is one of those testimonies, at the heart of our school’s mission and something we teach in many ways. What is amazing is that this student, who has only been with us for 9 months, has already learned the value of helping others and taking care of our environment.

Two – The look on this father’s face as he told the story. To be honest, it is a relatively simple story that, if I read it, would probably sound cute and somewhat inspiring. But when you’re looking into the eyes of a four year-old’s father, slightly welled with tears, so clearly proud of his child, most likely imagining the positive impact his son might have on the world, the story becomes more. It becomes his vision for the future. It becomes a light in my day. It becomes a beacon for our school.It becomes a driving purpose to continue on our educational journey. It becomes a tug-at-the-heart-strings story I have to share with others.

Interestingly, I momentarily forgot the story, caught up in the rest of the day’s details. But as the day came to a close and I arrived back home, it was the first thing I thought to tell my wife. When I heard the story, my eyes welled up – I couldn’t help but share in this father’s pride. As I write about it now, I have that same sense of pride – in that child, for that family, for those teachers, for our school.

Sometimes we need big moments that remind us why we teach, why we work at the school we have chosen or that has chosen us. But sometimes, it is something very small. In this case, a very small child, a very small story, a very small moment that reminds us of the powerful and positive potential of our teaching.

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