Once, long ago, I worked in a preschool for children with special needs. It was in the years before I had children of my own, when I was a brand new, untarnished teacher. I loved my job! I felt useful, I had a body of knowledge that I was able to apply, and I was surrounded by little people all day.
One day a little girl in the classroom was sitting on the “meeting rug”, her big blue eyes fixed on me, her chin resting in her chubby little hands. We were doing a morning song, as I recall, but she wasn’t participating. I smiled at her, and used the sign for “sing”, but she stayed quiet. Her eyes looked huge through her pink plastic glasses, and she barely blinked. I remember feeling frustrated with her lack of response, but slightly worried about her at the same time.
“Megan,” I asked when the song was finished, “Sweetie, why didn’t you sing with us?”
“Cuz. You.” She pointed at me.
“What? What about me?”
“I like your face.”
What a lovely gift! I smiled for weeks afterwards.
That sweet moment took place nearly 30 years ago. I no longer work with preschoolers, and I no longer teach only children with special needs. I haven’t really thought about that class, or that adorable little blondie, for many years.
I was reminded of her this week, though, when a funny thing happened in the classroom where I now teach fifth grade.
I have been lucky enough this school year to find myself teaching a class full of happy, bright, enthusiastic children who love to be in school. They are all engaging and fun (I swear, I am not exaggerating: I feel like I spend all day in a pile of puppies!).
Two of the pups are twin boys. They are both tall, broad shouldered, and brown haired. Both have a tendency to gaze out the window at the warm, sunny day, and both sport just-beginning-to-grow-out buzz cuts.
They look amazingly like my own boys at the same age. Even the way that they stand together, always aware of each other’s presence, pulls at my heart strings. My boys used to do that! When I look at the upturned noses, the light sprinkling of freckles, the innocently wide green eyes, I can clearly see my sons. I love having the twins in my class, but I miss my own boys even more than usual with them around.
The other day, the kids were listening to a lesson from the art teacher. I was seated at my desk in the front of the room, typing a note, but looking out at the children. I caught the eye of one of the twins, and he looked away quickly, then sat up a bit straighter.
A moment later, he looked up to find my eyes still fixed on his face. He flushed a bit, then mouthed the word, “Sorry.”
The poor little guy thought that I had caught him daydreaming, and figured that he was in trouble! I knew that I needed to make things right, but I didn’t want to go into a long explanation as I lined the kids up to go to gym class. So I put a hand on his shoulder, pulling him just a bit out of line, to walk behind the others.
“Liam.”, I began, “You weren’t in trouble at all! You were just fine.”
“So why were you looking at me?”, he asked with a child’s directness.
“Honey”, I smiled, “I just really like your face.”