Gratitude and happiness are expressed in many ways. To me, they were revealed in a tea bag: a small, thoughtful gift to say, “thank you”.
I work with second graders in a public elementary school. While I am a certified elementary education teacher, I am currently employed as a special education paraprofessional (assistant) and I am working with a student in a general education classroom who has special needs. While most of my day is dedicated to that student, there are times when he is out of the room to receive other services. At those times, I try to help other students who may need attention.
One of the students who benefits from my assistance is a lively girl who struggles with reading. I’ve been working with her on recognizing sight words and on sounding out words. She gets frustrated sometimes when she reads to me; it can be a real blow to her self esteem to make attempts and just not get it. In addition, this little one struggles with ADHD and is frequently off-task, or arguing or playing with the partner who sits next to her. This draws a great deal of negative attention to her from the teacher and lands her into trouble. Often.
This child has so much energy and can be inappropriate at times, but there is something very sweet and positive in her, and when she smiles, I can’t help but smile too. She also has a way of trying to get what she wants. For example, she likes the wintergreen mints that I stash in my book bag. I try to get what I want too, using the mints as incentive or reinforcement. I don’t often give away my mints, but there is something about this vibrant, whirlwind of a child that makes me give in, and in the process, we are building a connection.
On Tuesday, while she was waiting for her bus to go home, I had the chance to test her reading. She did very well that afternoon – very few errors – and she felt so good about herself. I let her know how proud I was that she made her best efforts and that she was improving. She was beaming. This child, who so often is corrected for misbehavior, had a successful moment and was being praised for it. You know that feeling you have when you know that you did something right? That’s how she felt on Tuesday before she went home.
Now her bus was called and it was time for her to leave. She walked over to the desk from where her teacher was sitting and said goodbye and “Thank you Mrs. L. for teaching me”. Then she came to me and thanked me too. We were touched by her thoughtful words. How often, and from how many students, does a teacher hear “thank you”?
Then she said, “Wait, I have something to give you.” From her book bag she pulled out a tea bag to hand me. She handed one to Mrs. L., too. I was surprised that she was carrying tea bags with her to school, and I never did find out why. But when she gave me that tea bag, it could have been all the riches in the world, because that small gift was from her heart. It was her happiness. I can’t say how Mrs. L. felt that afternoon, but I went home feeling energized and affirmed. Something we are doing is touching that child and giving her the opportunity to experience success, and she wants us to know that. Like I said, gratitude and happiness are expressed in many ways. 😉