As a kid I spent most of my days playing in my back yard. “Always in the dirt with your animals,” my older sister easily remembers. I was an outdoors kind of kid. That’s where I loved to be... outside with my animals. I had my share of pets growing up. And my share of memories to go along with each of them.
Sometimes, the special things of childhood seep into our adult lives. They do for me at least. As an adult, I still have my share of pets, including two colorful koi in my back yard.
They are survivors. Most animals are, I suppose. They are the last survivors of a predatory Cooper’s hawk stalking our neighborhood―the consequences for living near a creek, I learned.
To protect them, we kept the tank covered with dark screens for the past few months. We didn’t want to chance another loss.
On occasion when the Texas sun is not so angry, I pull the screens off and sit beside them on a bench. Something about them fills me with peace. Maybe it’s the way they swim and move about beneath the water, the sound of the water, or the clear sight of the rocks below. Maybe all of it reminds me of faraway places in my memories.
Koi are beautiful to watch.
As I sat beside them, I noticed they were not alone. In the months spent protected from predators and visitors, they produced life.
There were three others in the tank. Three tiny new members of our little koi family.
Out of hundreds, maybe thousands of eggs, three little lives survived. They are, like their parents, survivors.
Most of us are, I suppose.
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When it comes to teaching, there are many hard things. One of the hardest for me is letting go at the end of the year. The more I know to give my heart and soul each year, the harder it is to let them go.
They are my kids, right? I had them for nine months, and no one can possibly know them, teach them, or love them the way I did.
It’s a truth that feels as solid as rock… that is until I meet the others who continue the work.
Last week, I met a teacher at an out of town workshop I attended.
She sat across from me and we began some small talk. I discovered she worked at the school where my students moved on to 5th and 6th grade. As we chatted, she began sharing names of students, trying to find one we had in common.
After a few unfamiliar names, she paused for a moment and tried one more. “Was X… your student?” she offered. The name caught my attention immediately. “Yes,” I whispered, nodding quietly while falling back into memories of the student, his struggles, and my hopes for him.
Writing for him was hard. I remember.
For a quiet moment, we reflected. We had something special in common. This kid was special, and we connected knowing this simple truth.
She smiled, and then quickly reached down into her wallet and carefully pulled out a red heart-shaped note. I knew what it was before she handed it to me. I often carry similar treasures in my own bag. It was a note from a student to his teacher.
In that precious note, he shared details of her impact on his learning and thanked her for teaching him.
After reading the note, I pressed it over my heart and thanked her for sharing it with me. We both knew how special it was.
It warmed my heart to know this tiny paper filled much more than her teacher wallet. He left my classroom with a love for writing. She made that clear to me. And knowing she could see through his struggle to see something beautiful in him, brought comfort.
I am not the only one in this hard work. It’s good to be reminded. There are others who do the work, and many others who love them, too.