“I wonder if any of my kids live on this street,” I wondered aloud while walking the dog.
“What do you mean, your ki- oh. Teacher talk,” David replied, nodding.
He’s fairly used to this manner of speech by now. I do it without thinking, but I’ve caused some confusion by using sentences like, “One of my moms told me I need to try that restaurant!” That one was met with quizzical stares around the dinner table. I have one mom. I then had to explain myself and clarify that I meant one of my student’s moms. A classroom mom. My classroom mom.
The one place I never have to explain that is with other teachers. They understand what I mean when I say, “I think one of my dads would be willing to come in and help with that.” I don’t have any children of my own yet, so there’s no confusion when I say, “My kids are so funny today.” They know exactly who I’m referring to, and they use the same language.
It comes naturally. For the year that those children are in my classroom, they are mine. I spend the greatest portion of my waking hours with them during the week. I get to see them grow from the babies they are when they arrive in August to the big kids who leave my classroom in June. For most of the day, I play multiple roles in their lives. I am not only teacher, but also nurse and counselor and referee and cheerleader and bug exterminator. I am a coworker with their moms and dads in leading these children into greater knowledge and maturity. We do it together, and everyone plays a part. We are a family and we are a village.
It’s why I love teaching third grade, where I have the same kids all year long. I know all their siblings’ names. I know where they go for holidays. I can recognize their handwriting and know whose paper is whose even if they forget to write their names (again). I can tell when they’re struggling with something because I have time to get familiar with their personalities and recognize small changes. They know that my husband is a Green Bay Packers fan and that we love the Buckeyes. They know that David will read to them if they ask. I am part of their family, and they are part of mine.
I’m also an aunt. There’s a tiny girl in Ohio who has a large part of my heart, and a little boy coming in October who has already claimed another part of it. One of the greatest joys of my life is the role I get to play in Kaelyn’s, teaching her and training her and helping her make sense of the world around her. I’m part of her village too. It’s made up of her parents, her grandparents, her preschool teachers, her swimming instructors, her gymnastics coaches. She’s watching the people around her all the time to learn how to be an adult.
It is both a privilege and a responsibility to train the next generation. The school where I work puts a great deal of emphasis on training children in virtue. That doesn’t come naturally. The implications are that I have a responsibility to model a life of virtue for them. They learn so much from watching how I handle every situation, day in and day out. It can be a lot of pressure to know there are little eyes following me and impressionable souls that are affected by what I do. Sometimes, it means that I have an opportunity to model humility and what it looks like to apologize and ask for forgiveness when I handle something incorrectly. Always, it requires patience. I have to remind myself over and over again that they are being trained. They will not learn to be kind to their classmates overnight. For some of the children I teach, I won’t see results of the training they’re getting before the end of the year. It takes faith in what the Lord is doing in their hearts to stay consistent and keep the goal in sight.
Someday, I hope to be a mom. Lord willing, our children will be surrounded by a village of people who love them and will help to raise them. I hope they learn kindness and gentleness from my mom. I hope they learn work ethic and self-sacrifice from my dad. I hope they learn a deep love for family from my mother-in-law and father-in-law. I hope they see the joy that David and I have in our marriage and the joy we have in our friendships with so many wonderful people. There will be teachers and coaches and friends who all play a role. As an older cousin, Kaelyn will be part of the village raising my kids. It’s a beautiful picture of the community we were built for and an honor to be a part of it.