Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sticks and stones

I can’t imagine that anyone has escaped from this life without at least once feeling as though they didn’t fit in and therefore either stood out or simply blended into the patterned wall paper. I was one of those children who wanted to be noticed. I wanted to present my projects first, to volunteer to read aloud, or to audition for the solo or concert. As I prepare to address the topic of beauty from the inside out with first through sixth graders, I'm reminded of how quickly comments from others could zing away at my confidence level. The unkind boy at my grandmother’s swim club, the girl I overheard in passing at camp. The comment that has come to mind most often over the years was actually spoken by a child, but given life by an adult.

I remember the start of 4th grade as if it were yesterday. Our classroom was oddly located overlooking the school gym, making concentration next to impossible if any other class happened to make their way to P.E. during a test. The carpet was peach and we had windows that also faced the back parking lot and soccer fields. The room was on the second floor and had a long closet where we could hang our backpacks and lunch boxes or travel down to the computer lab at the other end of the hall.

I can’t recall what I wore on the first day of school, but I vividly remember Aaron walking up to me quite candidly and piping up that “My dad said you got fat this summer.” Not, “How was your summer?” or “I wonder what 4th grade will be like?” or even “I don’t like Mrs. So and So already.” Not only do I wonder what compelled Aaron to share this information, but I also wonder what made his father decide to proclaim such a message to his son. I have seen my 3rd and 4th grade photos, and there is no denying that my face goes from petite to round.

One sentence and I carry it always. Our words must be more than censored or filtered when speaking with children. Our hearts must be in tune to the ways their ears pick up and record not only our word choice, but our tone of voice as well. Our words, spoken and written, have so much power…to build and to break.

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