The Power of Acceptance: Remembering Teachers who Remember Us, by Laura Anderson Kurk

September 3, 2014 · 6 comments

As a child, I kicked around silently in the halls of my schools. I shuffled a lot and stayed close to the walls or the lockers. I made myself as small as I could so I didn’t encroach on another’s space.

I still wake up from dreams, startled that I’m in my bed as a 40-something-year-old woman and not back in the main hall of my high school where I often had to pause to slow my breath before entering a classroom. It felt the same on the last day of class as it had on the first day—never easing with repetition or familiarity.

My heart has not forgotten. Neither have my lungs. Even now they tighten with the memories of my childhood and teenage anxieties. I wonder why it had been so difficult for me to be comfortable. Why it is still difficult.

Recently a blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford, popular blogger and author of Hands Free Mama, detailed her understanding of children who are butterflies, shiny and overtly talented and happy in the spotlight, and children who are fireflies, lit from within and quietly watching. Her daughter, she believes, is a firefly.

I really like fireflies.

It’s a beautiful image, actually, and one that gets quickly to the heart of the adolescent self-esteem breakdown. Why, oh, why, have we so long celebrated only the butterflies in our schools? Are we really so rushed that we only have time to notice the students who comfortably move from the theatre productions to the cheerleading tryouts, or think nothing of going for the highly visible athletic and leadership roles? Those blessed with the gift of gab. Those who look forward to school.

I’m raising two children who hang back like I did. They are gracious, polite, and intelligent. But they’re also unusual, quiet, and pensive. They wonder if they are okay. They ask me why they are different. As their mother, I have an advantage, having been much like them as a child.

Even so, it’s sometimes uncomfortable for me to see them passed over or misunderstood or ignored at school. I have to rein in my advice if it ever begins to sound like I’m asking them to change who they are to manipulate the fickle tides of attention.

More than anything in the world, I want my children to understand their own hearts and to celebrate their differences.

I want them to be winners in the most important event called self-efficacy.

And there is no better, more sure, vaccine for confidence and self-efficacy than a teacher who is, above all, a noticer. Oh, I knew the noticers as soon as I walked into their classrooms. They were the teachers who weren’t paying attention to the conversations of the “obvious” crowd. They were the ones who caught my eye and smiled at me as I entered. The ones who nodded their heads in greeting, but let me be.

I can rattle off their names to this day—Mrs. Lilley, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Tucker, and others.

And now, I recognize the noticers who teach my children. The ones who dash off an email telling me how much they appreciate my son’s quirkiness. They thank me for allowing him to be himself. Mrs. Strawn, who sent me a picture she took with my daughter because she knew it would make my day.

And, this one, Mrs. Jackson, my daughter’s fifth grade English teacher. She had suffered hearing loss years ago, and got by with her lip reading skills and her acutely perfected sense of sight, which manifested as unbearably lovable compassion for her students.

I can’t count the number of times I walked the halls of that school and saw Mrs. Jackson reach for a lonely child, take him by the shoulders, and say her signature line, “You are beautiful.” Mrs. Jackson knew the power of touch and the brute force that unconditional love has on a child’s psyche. With Mrs. Jackson’s simple acceptance, low self-esteem didn’t stand a chance. I hope she sees me bowing in honor to her now.

We as a society ask an awful lot of our teachers. We ask them to be educators, parents, and disciplinarians every day. We ask them to be patient with classes that exceed student count limits. We ask them to buy school supplies and shoes for needy kids. We ask them to turn their cheeks when they are disrespected. And most of them do these things with honor and love in their hearts.

We owe them so very much. They teach us, yes, but the ones we will remember for eternity are the ones who notice us.

laura-anderson-kurk-photo-writers-blog-sept2014

Laura Anderson Kurk writes bittersweet books for young adults. Her novels Glass Girl and Perfect Glass are stories about love and loss and putting down roots that last. Laura believes in the power of reflection and creativity to change lives. She lives in Texas with her husband and two children. Connect with her at laurakurk.com or @LauraKurk.

  • http://www.lift-the-lid.org/how-it-works/who-we-are/ Sara Goff

    Thank you, Laura. Your post is as tender, touching, and insightful as your novels Glass Girl and Perfect Glass. I’m honored to have your support of Lift the Lid, and the students who are finding a best friend in the books you donated are truly grateful. You are a voice to fireflies everywhere.

  • http://www.BusyWomenBigDreams.com Connie Mann

    Beautiful post. Thank you. What a wonderful tribute to teachers who notice.

  • http://laurakurk.com Laura Anderson Kurk

    Thanks so much, Sara, for offering me a spot on your meaningful blog. I feel inadequate, as I mentioned, because you have such gifted storytellers who have stopped by! But what is here is what is in my heart. I love teachers. I do. And I love what you’re doing to help schools in the world.

    Laura

  • Dawn DeFore-Burdine

    Beautiful! Took me back to my own insecurities as a young student! 🙂

  • Laneita evans

    You are a beautiful writer, I can hear you in your words and see you I’m so proud to know you and so proud of you success , you go girl! Miss you

  • Cherri Mullins

    Laura, this is beautiful.

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