From my 2013 Journal.
For five years I’ve taught a core group of girls in Sunday school, and yesterday we had a final send-off party for them as they head to junior high. Once again, I’m reminded of how important beginnings and endings are when time seems either to stand still or to stretch. All the in-between-time is far longer, but we seem to stop and take notice more at the bookends of an event.
Frankly, I was beginning to question whether or not I was an effective teacher, yet these girls showered me with love and accolades that made me cry. I doubt myself because I’m so horrible at learning new names and faces, and I just have to fake it sometimes and compensate for it. And it’s getting harder to remember the details of the Bible stories I tell.
I think what makes the difference for the girls is not my “great teaching” but the fact that I send them monthly, hand-written letters. What’s really interesting is to hear from the parents. Time warps in their minds too. One parent claimed I wrote her child every other week, and one even thanked me for weekly missives!
Megan said she bonded with me her very first day when I gave her a hug. She came into class scared and lost, and I made her feel safe. And I think that’s the key—making the girls feel good about themselves. In my letters I tried to point out their good qualities, compliment them, lift them up, cheer them on. I know I like that when others do it to me.
I’m a word person, but I also gave them a few gifts—I know that, at least for one girl, that’s her primary love language.
All year, I knew I wanted to give away some trinkets I’d collected over the years from international sources, including a little doll from Krakow with long, blond braids. I couldn’t figure out how to do it equitably during Sunday school since there were other children in the classroom besides the girls that routinely sat at my table. Besides, I wasn’t sure which girl would want what gift. So, when Madison invited me and our table girls to an end-of-the-year party at her house, I wrapped up those items and took them with me. They opted to play “Dirty Santa.” (Participants choose a gift in the order in which they pick a number out of a hat. The next girl in line may steal a gift that’s already been opened or choose a wrapped one.) Kata gasped when she opened her box and saw the doll. She’s the only girl with long, blond hair! Though all seemed enamored by the doll, none of the girls dared to steal it from her. It felt like a holy moment. The doll had found its home at last.
And so I signed up to teach . . . again.