I want to tell you a story.
Identifying information has been changed to protect the people involved but this is a very real, true story as told to me by someone I love dearly.
This is a story about a little girl named Lola. Lola is in the 3rd grade.
Lola is that girl. Yeah, you know the one. She is beautiful, smart, athletic and one of the lucky ones when it comes to her family. Her momma and daddy love each other so and man, oh man how they love Lola. She has a sibling who makes her laugh on the regular and her home life is pretty dreamy. Play dates and arts and crafts and baking and sports and music and dancing; all of it fills her days and weeks and pretty much everything she does makes her momma and daddy so dang proud.
COVID has stolen some things from Lola.
Her peace of mind. Her attention. Her sense of security. Her naivety about the world.
This did not happen over night. She slipped away slowly.
What used to be a bright and bubbly girl that loved school and her friends and wanted to make her teachers and parents proud has been replaced by a little girl who can’t speak a sentence without weeping.
The world is too scary. Everything feels like pressure. School is weird and oddly isolating. Even the parent-approved kids shows she watches make her long for normalcy.
Her parents take turns... consoling, reassuring, praying over her, singing over her, holding her and encouraging all the while giving each other knowing looks with wide eyes.
Lola’s parents have been through a lot together. But no matter the heavy challenges they have faced they never, NEVER knew that real depression and anxiety would try to steal their little girl.
Not at 9 years old.
One day at school Lola could not concentrate. She was getting that feeling again. It was a feeling that started in her stomach and burned to her throat. A visceral response to what felt like impending doom was always right around the corner. She closed her eyes so tight that her eyelashes brushed the top of her face mask and as she sat behind the plexiglass walls of her desk, she tried to pray. Time was running out and she clicked submit for her assignment and the grade popped up... 50.
She panicked. She was an A student. What did this mean? What would her parents say? What would her teacher say? She wanted nothing more than for the world to be right again and to make everyone proud and feel better... but now what? Defeated and scared, she watched as the teacher approached her desk.
The teacher glanced at the grade and said, “I’m not impressed.”
Lola’s little spirit crumbled.
Once she got home she let herself go limp in her mommas arms as she wept.
After troubleshooting they decided that Lola needed to take more time with each assignment and always double check her work.
But her momma and daddy did worry.
The comment seemed so negative and they started to wonder what the classroom environment was like for Lola everyday.
But they knew better than to storm the school demanding a meeting. They knew better than to say anything unkind to Lola about her teacher.
They were very much aware that COVID had probably stolen some things from Lola’s teacher too.
Her peace of mind. Her attention. Her sense of security. Her patience. For all they knew she could have suffered immeasurable loss.
But as the weeks went by and Lola reached even higher levels of anxiety and depression they took intentional action.
They put Lola back in all the physical activities that were allowed with a mask.
There was just one environment left to change.
They knew that for their children to be well-adjusted adults they needed to learn how to respond to all types of personalities. But this, this was too real and they felt a sense of urgency as their daughter struggled with thoughts that are too tender to spell out.
Lola’s parents had to do something they never thought they would do.
They requested a class switch.
Day one of the new classroom and new teacher and new students Lola hopped in the car after school with her mask still on and while squirting some hand sanitizer in her hands she exclaimed,
“Mom! That was the best day I’ve had in school ever! Everyone was so happy!”
Lola’s momma hid her tears of relief behind her sunglasses as Lola detailed the whole day with joy.
But later that same week Lola got her progress report. This progress report was from the previous teacher and showed that Lola had As and Bs and ... a failing grade.
Ahem... let me repeat. FAILING grade. Lola. The A student.
Lola’s momma’s brain was on fire as she felt this was, retaliation?
Could it be? Really? No, no surely not.
Why didn’t the teacher call? Use the parent communication app? Text? Email? Surely an A student with a failing grade is a red flag? Maybe it’s not?
But then, Lola’s momma noticed something else.
Attached to this progress report, a progress report of a student with a failing grade, was a note from Lola’s new teacher.
Keep doing great on your grades. I will help you with your Math. Ask me if you are not sure about any assignment. I want to tell you that I am happy to have you in my class, and don’t ever forget... YOU ARE SMART. YOU ARE SPECIAL. YOU ARE IMPORTANT.
Lola’s momma literally held the note to her chest and cried with great relief.
Teachers, first let me say that my heart breaks for all the hurt you have endured because of COVID in and out of the classroom. I know it’s ongoing even as you read this.
Teachers, second let me say that the Lola’s need you. Oh they need you. The attitude and stress and frustration and expectation and the love and joy and peace and calm... all of those things you bring into the classroom in your body language and face and demeanor and WORD CHOICE... oh they matter so, so much not just to the Lola’s but to the whole entire family that she goes home to.
Teachers, YOU HAVE SO MUCH POWER.
YOU HAVE SO MUCH POWER when you choose to see value and worth in ALL students.
YOU HAVE SO MUCH POWER when you show love and grace to our children.
YOU HAVE SO MUCH POWER when you choose to speak life and positive affirmations over our kids.
This year of pandemic parenting makes me want to keep the teachers whose compassion for people way outweighs their passion for teaching.
This year of pandemic parenting proved that kindness matters.
This year of pandemic parenting makes me value the teachers who know they have POWER and use it to change a child’s life for the better.
Thank you to the teachers who continue to use this POWER to save the Lola’s.
(PS. Teachers, you are also wildly underpaid. OK now I’m done.)