Since this is the season for giving, what is perhaps the best gift a child can ever receive? In their eyes, maybe bicycles, trampolines, Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles…the list goes on forever.
The best gift is the gift of your time.
Time given to a child reaps many benefits for the giver and the receiver.
Some of my best memories of being in education stem back to my days in the classroom—middle school science class. I remember Michael. Michael would come into my classroom daily without his pencil, without his folder, he might have his notebook, but not likely. Michael was very quiet. After many reminders that just went in one ear and out the other, I finally started keeping his supplies in a special place in the classroom so he could grab them quicker. After a while, I started writing “remember” notes in his supply stash so he would remember the homework or the project we had due. Michael was very careful not to let anyone see the notes. Soon after that, he started leaving me notes asking me questions. They were neatly tucked inside his folder. This he never forgot to put back in its cubby hole. This went on for several weeks before he started being the last one to leave class, lingering, looking like he wanted to say something. So one day I asked him how it was going. He said okay, but there was more. I tried to engage him in small talk asking how his family was, what he liked to do, things like that. It took him about two weeks every time we added a new dimension to get comfortable with it. One day, during the second semester, we had a breakthrough. Michael came into class, went through our normal routine of him finding the reminder note, him staying a few minutes after the bell to tell me he had a dog. I was expecting something more dramatic I guess, but that moment in time was poignant. Not only did he put forth the effort to speak, but he added sentences to describe his dog. This never happened. He was a man of few words. I often wondered if he even could speak. This may seem insignificant, but this student, I found out later, had a history of misbehavior largely due to persistently forgetting his materials and often was the recipient of ISS, would shut down and even had past failures.
He did not make failing grades in science. He was a B average student.
Towards the end of the year, in one of his notes I found a thank you. It simply said thank you for helping me remember my supplies.
The next week, I found another note that told me he was moving away because his mother found another job.
The next week, another note appeared stating that he liked my class out of every class he had ever been in because he never got in trouble, and I helped him. On the final, he made an 86. I had one teacher argue that I gave him a curve. I told him I only gave him time.
How many times do we forget to give kids our time because the world seems to be turning so fast? Our own kids, our students we teach, our students we coach…the greatest gift we can give them is the ability to listen to them and give them time.
During this Christmas Season, share the gift of your time.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Dr. John E. Chapman III