Last Thursday I taught in a first grade classroom. As I’ve mentioned, I was initially a little nervous because I hadn’t taught students that little in more than 20 years. But I found them charming and delightful to teach. I noticed right away that there was a boy sitting right at the front with wrap around bifocals secured with an elastic strap around the back of his head. I am extremely aware of vision problems in children as my husband lost an eye at 6 years old due to a childhood accident, and our younger daughter was in bifocals at the age of 2. And as a teacher, I know that any physical abnormality can isolate children socially, which of course can lead to problems with self esteem. So I waited for an opportunity to go over to the student when he asked for help with his work. After I had answered his question, I crouched down and said,
Me: I see you’re wearing bifocals.
Him, hesitantly: Yeah….
Me: My younger daughter wore bifocals when she was little. She’s 26 now. She started wearing bifocals when she was 2. How old were you when you started wearing them?
Him, brightening up: 3.
Me: My daughter wore them from the time she was 2 until, umm… about 10 years old. Then she wore regular glasses for awhile and then switched to contacts when she was in middle school.
Me: Uh-huh. And do you know what her job is now?
Him: Shakes his head.
Me: She’s a scientist.
Him, eyes widening: Really? (Pleased look on his face.)
Me: Yep. A scientist.
Then, later that afternoon:
Me: Do you remember what my younger daughter does?
Him: Uh-huh. She’s a scientist.
Me: Yes, she’s a research scientist. Do you know what research means?
Me: It means she gets to do science experiments all day long.
Even later in the afternoon we were working on words that ended in “-ight.” He asked me how to use bright in a sentence. I responded, using his name,
Me: You are very bright.
He blinked, took a second to process it, and then said with a surprised look on his face:
Him: Thank you!
Two days ago I saw him during recess.
Me: I don’t know how much you tell your parents about what happens at school. Did you go home and tell your parents my daughter was a scientist?
Me: Good! I was hoping you would.
This is why I teach! And hopefully I performed a mitzvah that planted a seed .
*Mitzvah is a Hebrew word meaning “commandment,” but is most often used to refer to an act of human kindness that is completely selfless.