I remember my anxiety levels and the nervousness that would take over me when I first started learning English at the age of 12. I was terrible at public speaking; hated the thought of a crowd with their staring eyes burning holes through me. The idea of being a target of their unknown, cruel and judgmental thoughts, horrified me! And then one day, my pastor asked me to help teach Sunday School! Me! Plain Jane teaching a group of googly-eyed, 5 to 12 year olds when I, myself, was only 16. Or perhaps, more like Plain Juana- I was on my 4th year of English speaking experience and my accent was not the best, to put it nicely.
At first, I began simply helping the person who was originally in charge, then it became a co-teaching effort until I was finally on my own. Thinking back now, 10 years later, this was the genesis of my teaching career. This is how I slowly fell in love with the one thing that terrified me and made me lose sleep at night.
When I started taking classes at the College of Education in Florida International University (Go Panthers!)- my Sunday school students became my guinea pigs. I began implementing strategies I had learned during the week. I began creating teacher-made materials to bring up the level of interest in my lessons. I even spent hours on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings on the floor of my room planning for my once-a-week chance to be a teacher, even if my chance was only for a couple of hours. I remember doing so much with them! And then, I became a public school teacher.
I don’t mean the latter in any negative way. I still teach Sunday school once a week. I am perhaps not as enthusiastic as I once was. I may be a little more tired, a little less creative, and a lot more to-the-point. But I love teaching! Aside from their parents, I am perhaps the first teacher at least half of my students ever had. And so, they are my children; my very first students!
Although I teach them about the Word and often advice them in real life situations, I am not sure that I have ever clearly stated how much I truly appreciate and love them. Childhood is such a crucial stage in life. I have read that often times the personality a child will have as an adult is fully developed by the age of 5. Honestly, I can’t attest to the veridity of this statement or to it coming from a trustworthy source; but I can’t help but wonder how much love, dedication and guidance, or lack thereof, make or break a child. I remember when I was in Sunday school, myself, how my teachers and youth pastors reached out to me and my peers and how much their words of encouragement meant for us. It is also not easy being a teenager in today’s day and age. I realized how much more open and straight forward I have to be about how much their lives matter, not just to God but to me.
As we began getting ready to return back to school this past week, I wanted to do something special for them. I had run across a couple of ‘candy messages’ on the Internet, but I never knew when to bring that idea out. After much deliberation, I figured this was the perfect opportunity. I went to the Dollar Store (yeah, best teacher-salary friendly store ever) and bought a couple of candies that could be used to write such messages. I currently have students ranging in ages 7 to 16! So, I figured incorporating a couple of funny-but-perhaps-not-totally-pew-appropriate language would be the way to reach out to them.
“My lovely Nerds, this message is for you! I know Reese’s is over and is time to go to school! I’ll make this message short and sweet so you don’t lose your cool. I just wanted to give you some advice because I love your guts, go give the best of you and Crush some homework butt! Sometimes you’ll be quick to think that you’re Air Heads and you’re Goobers. But don’t let people think you’re that! You do more than pick your boogers… Despite the Snickers you think you might get this new school year, remember if you work Extra hard, you’ll be sure to lose ALL fear. It doesn’t matter how many Sour Patch-es you may go through …even twenty! If you place the Lord above all else, you’ll see the Good & Plenty. GO and CONQUER the world my little Smarties. Mounds of Kisses, Annie.
I hope this post encourages someone out there to take the time to tell someone they love how appreciated they are. No matter how creatively, or plainly, your message is delivered, it will one day make a huge difference in the life of your little ones. So go and spread the Mounds of love.