This morning Danny and I went for a quick tour of the middle school he will attend in person for the first time next week, after 7 months of learning online. It was so good to be there, and so kind of them to offer these quick, nearly personal tours for the students. I think the size of the school was more overwhelming for me than it was for him (to be honest I had just started to figure out his elementary school) but I know he is nervous about plenty of things.

The tour was not intended for the students to be able to spend time with teachers, but we had asked one of his teachers in advance if she was going to be there. She was, and was excited to possibly see him, so you know I dragged our tour down another 3 doors in the 6th grade hall to make sure we could at least wave through the door.

Danny looked into the room and even though he immediately recognized her, he stood outside the door until he heard her voice. As soon as she started talking to him, I could see his smile in his eyes even though his face was behind a mask.

This classroom is small – under any circumstances this classroom isn’t meant for more than about 10 kids and in COVID times it is set up for about 5. He’s never really seen a classroom quite like this one before. He glanced back and forth from the plexiglass screened desks to his teacher. She knew we only had about 2 minutes to visit and used every second of that time to tell him how excited she was to see him, how glad she was that he is in her class, and how happy she was that we stopped by so she could meet him today.

As we walked back to our car in the parking lot I asked him what he thought of the middle school.

He replied: “Mrs. N was happy to see me!”

I think this past year we have all learned a lot about what it means to teach. I could write novels about distance learning and the way that teachers have had to adapt and change to reach their students, and how they have had to do it under some of the most challenging conditions I can imagine. I have seen relationships grow and I have seen technology fail; set backs and miracles. I have seen teachers moving mountains knowingly and deliberately in an arduous effort to teach kids and I will never, ever forget it.

Still, the teachings that I am thinking about the most today are the things we pass on to the people around us when we don’t even realize we are doing it.

All of the things we say and do teach people about who we are, and if we say and do them to people who look up to us, we may very well be teaching them to be who we are. This has always been true, but all of this togetherness that we are experiencing is making it quite plain. If I want to see positivity and grace in the world around me – and I do – then I need to be sure that more often than not I am modeling that behavior. It doesn’t matter if my world is vast, virtual, or the same 11 people for months on end; I want to be teaching a lesson that someone is better for having learned.

The teacher that Danny met today is his English teacher, but he didn’t learn a thing about prepositions or even read a single sentence. To be honest I’m not sure that he even spoke a single word.

But today after an anxious morning of scripting and lurching around, he learned that his favorite teacher is so excited to see him next week. And he stood up straight, breathed deeper, and walked calmly down the halls.

There will be many opportunities to teach English, but today her lesson was love. And I am so grateful he was there to learn it.

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