Or maybe I’ll be an astronaut.

Happy International Women’s Day! Today I’m linking up with Story Sessions to write about “the girls we once were.” You should click over and read their beautiful stories as well.

I would like to publicly thank my mother for not letting me wear Jasmine's little bikini thing for Halloween, and instead having me wear my Jasmine pajamas.

I would like to publicly thank my mother for not letting me wear Jasmine’s little bikini thing for Halloween, and instead having me wear my Jasmine pajamas.

I can remember standing at the bottom of the stairs in the basement of the house my parents still live in, asking my mom how to spell “box”. I can’t remember why I wanted to spell box, but it is my earliest memory of reading or writing, and from that moment on I couldn’t stop. I wrote my name on the wall (and was duly shocked when my parents figured out that it was me), and I read books faster than we could check them out from the library. It was during those years that we discovered that the library had a 50 book per card limit, so I finally had to get my own library card. I still have that card.

My brothers and I would play house in the basement, in cardboard boxes and in the pretend kitchen. Nathan would be the baby and I would be the mom and Robby would be the hunter (obviously). I would cook and take care of the baby and order everyone around. My mom wasn’t a stay at home mom, but that was the role I always wanted. To order people around and take care of them.

I started school and the reading and writing and bossing people around really took off. I was shy and smart and before long, confident. I made friends and the shyness went away. I grew into myself. I loved animals, I loved dancing and singing and writing and hugging and TALKING. My family, my teachers, my church, my all-girl summer camp, my friends… I had the most supportive environment a child could have grown up in. I dreamed about taking care of people, of being a vet (I think everyone goes through that phase), of having a family.

We found a home video a few years ago of my first day of third grade. In it, I come home after school and immediately start reading off a long list of school supplies and talking to my mom about where we can find them and when we can go. To her credit, she pretty well ignores me to talk to my younger brother about how his first day of kindergarten was. I persevered in pestering her and we did eventually turn off the camera to go buy some school supplies. I showed the video  to some of my friends recently and they all commented on how little I’d changed.

The girls we once were are coming back to us now.

I have been incredibly blessed to never lose track of my dreams. Of course there were schoolyard bullies and unkind comments and teenage angst, but my family and friends have always supported me and I have never doubted that I am who I am, never lost sight of what was most important to me in life. Am I afraid of failure? Yes, of course. Will I survive if I fail? Yes, of course.

My taste in costumes has gotten decidedly more goofy and less limited to Halloween, but pajamas are still an important baseline.

My taste in costumes has gotten decidedly more goofy and less limited to Halloween, but pajamas are still an important baseline.

But I have the unique opportunity to teach third grade now, to watch these little souls who are at a crossroads in their existence, whose environment isn’t always what mine was. My freshman year of college I took my first education course and fell in love. During one of the first weeks of class, our professor told us that most counties decide how to allot prison budgets for the future based on how many children had to repeat third grade that year. The more students repeating third grade, the more money the prison system would need.

It was at once the most depressing and most hopeful thing I had ever heard. It is depressing because it means that so much of our lives is outside of our control. But it is hopeful because it means that good influences early in life: good teachers, good parents, good mentors, can permanently affect a child’s future.

I knew that day that I wanted to teach third grade. This year, there are 9 girls and 17 boys in third grade at my school. The boys are all boy: they love soccer and rough-housing and video games and experimenting with bad language, but they still need love and cuddles and laughs. The girls are quiet and well-behaved… and often overlooked. Statistics show that especially in elementary school, teachers unknowingly give up to twice as much attention and time in class to the boys because of their behavior issues compared to girls. With nearly twice as many boys in the grade, I strive to be conscious of this every day and to give concerted and intentional attention to my girls.

Last week, one of my girls stayed in for recess with me because she had been disobedient in class. With just her in the classroom, we talked about her misbehavior and what she could do differently next time, and I prayed for her.  I remembered that I had liked her poem using her spelling words from the week before. I told her so, and she said, “I like to write stories, but even more I like to tell stories. I love to read stories out loud and get to do the voices and help someone else to imagine what it must have been like in that place, in that time.”

I told her she could be an author when she grows up, or a teacher, or a mom or whatever she wanted but that she should never stop telling her stories. I told her that I always wanted her to know that her stories are good, that she is creative and smart and worth listening to.

 She smiled a little and said, “Yeah, maybe. Or maybe I’ll be an astronaut.” and skipped back out for the last five minutes of recess.

 

I was blessed to be loved through my childhood into my adulthood and so to have been able to hold fast to my dreams and my confidence. Every day I pray that I can inspire that same confidence in my students, especially my quiet girls and their strong voices.

Because the girls that we once were shouldn’t have to come back.

They should never leave.

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23 Comments

  1. Emily Case · · Reply

    “to order people around and take care of them” That’s a pretty good way to sum it up : )

    1. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

  2. that little story of that girl staying in over recess…what a beautiful moment. maybe you could be an author…or maybe you can be an astronaut.

    <3

    1. Yesterday she wrote a poem about what it would be like to be the first woman to visit Mars. I think she might be both.

  3. “Because the girls that we once were shouldn’t have to come back.
    They should never leave.”

    Yes. Yes Yes! I believe they are still inside us. now if only i can stop quieting her.

    thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for reading! If we, as a generation of women and mothers and teachers can refuse to squash our daughters’ and nieces’ and students’ dreams, there won’t need to be an international women’s day when they grow up. Let’s do it.

  4. Oh. I love this. “They should never have to leave.” YES.

  5. What a beautiful reflection – “or I could be an astronaut” – you just taught that child one of their most important life lessons: how to dream! And that is an extraordinary thing!

  6. Adela Just · · Reply

    This gives me so much hope as a mother, that maybe I can just nurture and encourage the gifts in my children and they will not have to known the pain of losing themselves.

  7. This is beautiful! What a great thing the way you encouraged that little girl. And this: “Am I afraid of failure? Yes, of course. Will I survive if I fail? Yes, of course.” For many years I would be afraid to try certain things because I might do it wrong or someone might laugh, etc. , but there is freedom in realizing that it’s ok to fail because many times our failures can teach us so much more than we realized.

    1. Amen! I’m still learning that it’s okay to try new things and fail at them, but I think you’re right. Our failures teach us so much. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I love this! I just read a Wall Street Journal article from the weekend about how little girls are often labeled as “bossy” for the same things that little boys get positive attention for. I love knowing that there are teachers out there looking to encourage girls to grow into who God created them to be.

    1. I saw that article too! I’m sure no one means to tell girls to sit down and shut up, but subconsciously it happens. I’m so thankful for widely circulated articles like that which will hopefully put the way that we talk to and about our girls on the forefront of people’s minds.

  9. Sweet post! I had no clue that prisons got more money for the amount of kids who repeat third grade! What a sad connection. And a more important job you have!

    You could probably right a whole blog about the funny and cute things your kiddos say. Thank you for being a great teacher and really caring about them!

  10. I can totally relate to this post! Being an author was the first career dream I had as a kid. So funny to see how life circles back around to the dreams of our hearts!

    1. Amen! I think I wanted to be about 100 things by the time I finished elementary school, but I really did always love best bossing people around and taking care of them. Teaching is perfect! :)

  11. I love the description “quiet girls with strong voices.” I stay home with my kiddos and so often have to remember how much I want my quiet baby girl (she’s 19 months) to have a strong voice – and to nurture that by hearing her now, when her words are few but really say so much. Love your perspective!

    1. Absolutely! I think girls especially are so often rule followers and learn so quickly that what parents and teachers want is for everyone to sit down and shut up that they overapply that. There are definitely times when I need everyone to sit down and shut up, but most of the time I want them to be themselves and try new things and be silly and energetic and LOUD if that’s who they want to be.

  12. Loved this post! So encouraging. It’s interesting and neat to see how our dreams evolve (or hang around) from childhood. I love that you are able to encourage these young girls to dream big and that they really can be anything they want to be.

    1. Thank you! I think our childhood dreams are really telling, at least as far as the themes and personality traits that were important to us.

  13. Reading about your childhood memories made me think back on my own and maybe it would be something to explore and write about in the future.

    I love the way you were able to encourage, pray for and speak truth to this little girl. It will effect her much more than you or I could ever know. I hope my little girl grows up and has teachers that are as encouraging and caring.

    1. Thank you! What a sweet comment. I like to think that all teachers look for and encourage the best in their students, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

  14. Oh dear this is beautiful. Seriously. I have changed, yes, but I am most definitely that same girl inside that I was in third grade. What a gentle and beautiful reminder to stay true to who we are.

    I love that you are making such an incredible difference to those children. What an incredible blessing you are for them to have you to remind them they are important! So awesome. ~Jenna // A Mama Collective

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