A teacher's gift from a student shows that education is about much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Teachers are under enormous pressure these days to get students to meet certain academic standards, starting at increasingly younger ages. Most teachers recognize that a true education involves far more than filling in the right bubbles on an answer sheet, but many feel that their hands are tied by expectations that leave them little room for anything but test preparation.
However, stories like the one that teacher Katie Pearson shared on Facebook remind us all that more important things happen in the classroom than just basic academics.
Her student gave her a box of Ziploc bags—and a reminder of what matters most in her role as a teacher.
Katie Pearson, a first grade teacher at Blue Haze Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, first described how she was having a bad day when a student presented her with a humble, but meaningful, gift.
Today was rough. Like I don’t cry and I cried 5 times today. I was ready to crawl in a daggum hole. Sometimes or most of the time, as a teacher you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You feel if not everyone of your kids leaves reading and writing on level...that you have done a disservice to them. You feel like you not only failed your students, but the parents, the next teachers, the administrators, etc. You feel like a failure because you didn’t read every day with every student (which is impossible). You feel like a failure because not every student showed huge academic gain. You feel like you shouldn’t be a teacher because your classrooms academic data doesn’t look like the classroom across the hall. You feel like you have set a kid up to fail because they didn’t read a non fiction level 16 with the proper comprehension and text to self connection. You feel the weight of their future on your shoulders.
Then one of her students presented her with a humble, but meaningful, gift.
But today, reality hit me at the end of the day straight in the face. Reality hit me by a 6 year old holding a box of ziplocs. “Miss Pearson. I have you something. ”She hands me this box. “Thank you so much! What are they for?” “Miss Pearson before Christmas you said you were out of ziploc bags at home. I saw your sandwich and chips in the same bag. Nobody needs that. That’s gross. Plus, when we need something, you get it. When we lose our glue, you may not be happy but you get us another one. Or when Joe* eats his pencils, you tell him it’s wrong but you still give him more. You told us that if we love people, we show them. You said real leaders show people. I just want to show you.”
Pearson said it's okay if her students leave her class not reading at a certain level as long as they leave with "a heart that loves others."
Pearson said that her student's gift made her sob.
"Why? Because yes I care if they read but today I realized its okay if they cannot read and write at an unrealistic level because when they leave my classroom, they leave better than they came. It’s okay if my kids can’t retell every non fiction book and make text to world connections because they leave with a tender heart. Sure, the world needs better readers and writers....but our world really needs softer hearts, eager hearts, and willing hearts. Our world needs kids who observe more and learn from it. Our world needs more compassion. So my kids may not all be on level when they leave me...but they all leave me knowing they can be better and that they have the potential within to make this world better."
Being a teacher is so much more than merely helping kids develop academic skills. Dedicated educators care about nurturing the whole child—their heads and their hearts.
"I’d rather have a class leave with a heart that loves others than with the ability to read a DRA 16," Pearson concluded. "Because those ziploc bags mean more to me than an entire class on grade level. Anyone can teach them to read but not everyone will teach them to care. 💕"
Teachers have enormous influence over the children they teach. And the more kids who are taught to care for others and to show it through kind deeds, the better the future world will be for all of us.
Keep up the good work, Ms. Pearson.