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January 24, 2011

Karla's Korner

I am proud to introduce a new column to Madame Deals! I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!

Lessons learned from a little boy…

As I sit down to write this I am sitting in a classroom with ten of the most beautiful children all nestled in their blankies sleeping soundly. The shades are down and there is sweet music playing to the crashing of ocean waves in the background. Ahh, this is the good life. When I tell people that I am a preschool teacher and that I teach ten three year old children every day I receive all kinds of comments. Most of those comments have to do with the fact that I must be a bit “off my rocker” to want to have such a job. Maybe I am, but if I am, there’s no place I’d rather be.

Every year in August, I open my classroom door to a brand new group of three year olds. Some of those students have never been in a classroom. Some have never been away from mommy and daddy. Some may be only children and have not really played or associated with other children on a regular basis. Some have older siblings or brand new babies in the house. Every year I meet and greet anywhere between 15 and 20 brand new faces and welcome them into my life. And every year, I am blessed beyond words.

When I became a mother way back in 1993, I had never spent much time with children. As a matter of fact, the first diaper I ever changed in my life was that of my newborn daughter. And my husband, well he had less experience than I did; bless his heart. Thankfully, for us, and for our daughter, we were quick studies. Over the past 18 years I have learned that each child is different, each family is different and while I would like for everyone to be like me, they are not. What I have learned is that if I am going to work in a child based environment, I must be able to adapt to meet their needs. It’s not about me, and for someone who struggles with control issues, that is one tough lesson to learn.

When I started working in the preschool field, I was strongly encouraged not to get too close to the families. “This is a job, don’t allow yourself to get too close” was something I often heard. But as I began to teach, I realized that these children and their families are more to me than just a job. They are a part of my life. And while I am supposed to be the one teaching, I have learned some pretty valuable lessons from them.

For example, I’d like to share the story of my little friend Lucas. Lucas came to my classroom two years ago with very little speech and very little emotion. At first I thought he was just “testing” me, but I quickly learned that Lucas wasn’t the typical “cookie cutter” little boy. Lucas wasn’t “pushing my buttons” he couldn’t communicate. I shared my concerns with his mother and together we embarked on a journey that would make a huge impact on my life and my heart. Lucas began getting speech therapy and I began to work on figuring out different ways to communicate and understand. There were times I would ask my director to move him to another class.”I can’t teach him” is what often told her. Her response was the same every single time ”He’s yours, figure it out” As time ticked away that school year, Lucas and I developed a push/pull relationship. Some days he would push me to the brink of tears and other days, he’d pull me by the heart strings and make me work harder. The first day Lucas spoke clearly everyone in the class cheered him on; me? I cried of course. Lucas? Well he hugged me, patted my back and quietly went back to his seat. I knew then that we were on the right path. The school year came to a close in late May and on the last day of school I was tired and ready to go home. I was diligently working to get everything put away and packed up for the afternoon, hoping that I could get it all done so I would not have to go back to work the next day to finish. Lucas came up behind me and called my name. I quickly answered with a “what?” He said something I couldn’t understand and again, I answered him quickly as I wanted to finish the task at hand. As I turned around and looked at Lucas he was standing there with a smile and said clearly “I love you”.

Yes, I cried again. I picked Lucas up and held him tightly as I cried and told him that I loved him too. Sweetly Lucas patted my back and said “it’s alright Tarla”. That afternoon I knew that I had been taught one of my biggest life lessons ever. Because of that sweet 4 year old little boy, I became a better teacher. Lucas helped me figure out how to teach outside of the “box”. I shared that story with his mother and as I held her hand and wept along with her, we both knew that her little boy was going to be o.k. Once in a while I see Lucas in our community and each time he runs to me, hugs me tight and pats my back. He continues to do well in school, has learned to write his name and is growing like a weed.

In our world today we tend to focus on the material things and how we can get ahead. We are always looking for the next new gadget or gizmo that will help us do our jobs faster and more efficiently. We communicate via e-mail or texts often times without personal contact at all. There are no pats on the back. You can’t pat a cell phone, iPod, iPhone, or laptop on the back. Taking the time to handwrite a note to someone and sending it through the mail is almost unheard of. How often do you receive an e-card instead of a paper card in your mailbox? As life continues to zip by at a rapid rate of speed, I would encourage you to take a break, if only for a moment, and send someone a card or note in the mail. Dropping a note of encouragement in your child’s lunchbox or backpack is another great way to encourage them and let them know you care. The next time you stop for coffee at the local coffee shop, go inside, speak to a real person and say thank you and smile. When your children come home from school and hand you a graded piece of work, pat them on the back and hang that piece of work on the refrigerator.

Taking time to be present in the physical sense is sometimes difficult. All too often we find ourselves hurrying to get things done, much like I did with Lucas. How many times have we missed the opportunity to pat someone on the back? Taking time to reach out to someone with something as small as a handshake, kind word or pat on the back may be what makes someone’s day special. And who knows, they may in turn find a reason to do the same to you. As for me, I continue to allow myself the opportunity to share my life with the families of the children I teach. Even as the teacher, I find that I learn so much from them, often times without even realizing I’m learning it until one day it hits me like a ton of bricks…or a pat on the back from a small boy.

~Karla Robey

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