I have a teacher/caregiver-secret, one that I hope will change your mindset and possibly soften your attitude toward the boogers you call students or patients. Maybe you have lost sight of the person within the student or patient for whom you are caring. At times, we all reach a point where we forget the person inside and find ourselves focusing on the problems they have, or the problems they are causing us. If you have kids, work with kids, or take care of someone–young or old, this will help you. I’m sure of it.
The secret is: Look at their hands. I know that just rocked your world, right? It sounds strange, but stick with me. So many times in my classroom, I have been helping a student, trying so hard to help them understand a concept they should have grasped twelve explanations ago. They don’t get it. I’ve run out of ideas. The breaking point is close. That’s when I look down. There in front of me, curled around a #2 pencil, with an eraser that has been rubbed away in the effort to fix mistakes they have made over and over, are fingers, little fingers and a chubby hand.
At first glance, I may just see nails, a little too dirty, and awkward knuckles and fingers.
But looking closer, I am taken back to the tiny form of a hand–5 perfect fingers, almost waving to me on an ultrasound screen–the first glimpse of my little boy’s hand. These are my baby’s hands. These are hands of hope.
Then, a year blurs by and I see fingernails lined green and orange, crystals of salt clinging to chubby fingers, and tiny fingerprints outlined with the colors of the homemade play-dough pressed into the kitchen table. These are my toddler’s hands. These are hands of creativity.
Years roll on and these hands are scraped by rocks and “special sticks,” pried out of treasure troves (our back yard dirt pile). They are boo-booed, and band aided, and kissed to be made better. These are my preschooler’s hands. These are hands of exploring.
And at 5 years, I see more slender hands pulling on a school shirt, zipping up a backpack, and writing first letters and first words. These are my kindergartener’s hands. These are hands of learning.
Hands of hope, creativity, exploration, and learning–these are the hands of my little one.
But, these are also the hands of my students. “In loco parentis” (in place of parents) means a great deal more to me when I focus on these little hands. My responsibility becomes more than just perfecting how they are holding their pencils as they write their cursive letters. These hands are holding far more. They are holding hope, creativity, exploration, and learning from the past, but also for the future.
No matter how young or how old the hands that you are working with every day, they were formed by a Creator, held by a mother, strengthened by experience, and now…
Well, now it’s up to us.
Remember the hope, the creativity, the exploration, the learning. Remember the child. Remember the person.
Remember the hands.