It’s the small things that make a difference. A smile from the Walmart lady, a gentleman holding the door, a baby’s laughter. Amid the chaos swirling around us, it’s the small things we sometimes fail to notice the significance of.
For me, it’s jean day Friday.
That denim and those tennis shoes came in handy last week when I returned to school from District training. As I was exiting my car, I noticed a male and female student sneaking out the side door. So, instinctively, I called out, “Hey, where ya’ll going?” They looked at me and picked up their pace.
I’ve often explained to non-educators why teachers come home so dog-tired. No one can adequately understand unless they’ve spent eight-plus hours in a classroom of 30-plus kids. Literally hundreds of quick questions and instant decisions are made every minute of the day. “Are they understanding? How can they understand better? Is my fly zipped? I’m hungry, when’s lunch? Did I turn off the oven? What’s Johnnie doing over there? Should I ask Alice to wake up or is she tired because she took care of her little brother last night? Did I pay the electric bill? Where is Travis? I haven’t seen him in a few days. Was that word too big for them? What’s a synonym I can use? What if I get evaluated today? Is my lesson good enough? How’s mom feeling today? Oh shoot, I’ve only got five more minutes to explain miosis.” It’s enough to make anyone tired. On and on, the roller coaster hustles through a teacher’s mind. And most often, we never derail. And most times, we make the right call.
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So, when these kids picked up their pace, I had a 10-second conversation with myself. “That’s a girl and a boy going off campus. Not good. Wonder what they’re doing? Where they’re going? Should I follow them? It’s not really my job, but what about the momma of that girl? Would she want me to stop them? What if something happens to them? OK, I can’t live with that.” So, I walked toward them and got involved: “Hey, what are ya’ll doing?”
This time they ran.
It wasn’t about their skipping school, making poor choices, or getting in trouble. It was about the scary thought of something happening to them. So, I took off running after them. And there’s where my denim and tennies earned their significance.
Sure, looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have, but that’s what teachers do. We make split second decisions always for the sake of the child. And so, I ran.
As I’m huffing and puffing after them, I called the school’s front office and got the secretary on the phone, who got on the walkie-talkie to the P.E. coaches and administration. I relayed where we were and could hear her relay the coordinates to the rest of the crew.
I passed the soccer field where some science class was catching bugs or something, and I heard students say, “Is that Ms. Green running?” I could hear on my phone the coaches in the walkies laughing about Ms. Green sprinting down Howard Avenue. I ducked behind trees to make them think I had tuckered out so they would stop. I even stopped to ask a pregnant lady raking leaves if she’d seen two kids running. It was quite a spectacle, I’m sure.
Long story short, I herded the runaways into the arms of administration, and we caught them. All because I had on my jeans and tennis shoes.
I laugh about it now, especially thinking how it looked to see a teacher running around the neighborhood. But I learned something very important.
My family has pleaded with me many times not to be a hero at school. Naturally so, they have asked me not to run towards trouble when or if it erupts at school, and being the scaredy-cat that I am, I reassure them that I won’t. And I’m in no way saying my chase equates to recent events in schools. Very far from it. But on Friday, that quick conversation in my head taught me something. I honestly don’t know what I would do in a real emergency. I do know, however, that something inside urged me to throw caution to the wind and run after our kids. To relentlessly search and find them and get them back into the building – back on track – back where it’s safe.
Because that’s what teachers can do. We can see a kid who needs help. We can find a kid who needs direction. We can pursue a kid with relentlessness. Yes, that’s what teachers can do. #notOneMore