95: A Child’s Wisdom

95: A Child’s Wisdom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

A Child’s Wisdom

We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring.

~Catherine Pulsifer

What was I going to do? School was going to be out soon, and one quiet little girl in my class still had not earned an octopus. I made them from bright-colored yarn and gave them to my students as awards for doing something special.

I had introduced the octopus award early in the school year. My first winner was a little boy. The class was curious as I called him forward. I was holding a paper in one hand and an octopus in the other.

I said, “You did very well on this math test. For showing so much improvement, you’ve earned the very first octopus award. But there’s one more thing.”

Not being sure what this was all about, he asked, “What?”

I held out his paper and added, “Are you willing to let me keep this test?” The trade-off was no paper to take home to show his parents. Instead, he would have the admiration of his classmates as the first winner of this award.

I knew not every child could be an “A” student, but I believed each child could show improvement. To me, that was worth rewarding.

My personal reward was to watch each winner’s face. A smile would light up their eyes as they stood to proudly receive their prize. But these public commendations had an unexpected result.

A winner would sometimes keep the colorful octopus on his or her desk for days. I noticed that other children looked at it, but did not try to grab it or knock it off. Instead, there was a kind of respect. I felt this silent motivator was more powerful than any general reminder to the class about earning one. I waited to see what would happen.

By the end of the year, only the quiet little girl had not won an octopus. I knew I couldn’t make up a reason to reward her. My second graders were too smart for that.

One Friday afternoon, I gave a simple assignment. “Draw any picture of your choice. Write a few words to tell me about it.” I collected their papers and took them home to review. When I saw the little girl’s paper, I got excited. She had drawn a simple blue sky and green grass by a pond. On a path nearby were three people side by side. One was using crutches, one was in a wheelchair, and one had no obvious physical need.

Above her drawing she had written: “The sky is blue. The grass is green. And all the people are different.” Bingo! I couldn’t wait to get to class to make a trade — an octopus for this drawing. The look of joy when I called her forward was worth the wait.

I’m retired now and her paper is long gone, lost in one of my many moves. What has remained is her simple wisdom, treasured in my heart. It helped me develop a variety of relationships that I enjoy, just because “all the people are different.”

~Darlis Sailors

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