A Story Waiting To Be Told
by Barbara Gruener
Think back to your days as a student; who was your favorite teacher? Why? My favorite was my first-and-second grade teacher. It’s not that she looped, necessarily, but since our school was so small (there were 10 of us in my grade), she taught both first and second in one room. And being from a teeny, tiny town, she was actually a relative, my grandfather’s sister Norma, which made her my great aunt. I called her Aunt Norma at home, but in the classroom she was Miss Natzke.
Miss Natzke was my favorite in part because I was SURE I was her favorite. I just knew I was. She knew exactly what I needed and she saw to it that those needs were met. When I’d mastered the material she was teaching, for example, she put me in the little library off of her room to help a friend who hadn’t quite yet caught on. When I wanted to sing alto before we were allowed to harmonize, she gave me a chance and found out that I could, in fact, carry a tune. When I wanted to play the organ in church as a third grader, she said, “why not?” and wrote me into the schedule. And when I realized that playing the organ was way too big a job for a third grader like me, she softly smiled and took me out of the schedule. I just KNEW I was her favorite. And guess what? So did everybody else.
What was Aunt Norma’s secret? She knew that every child is a story waiting to be told and she had a way of finding out what ours was. She connected with our hearts before she tried to help us comprehend our ABCs and 123s. She wrapped us in a warm blanket of kindness, compassion and encouragement that gave us strength, confidence, and a voice and left us feeling like we could conquer the world at seven and eight years old. And she found a way to make each of us her favorite.
Easier said than done? Yes and no. Are you familiar with the blueberry story? Entrepreneur Jamie Vollmer’s blueberry metaphor is a powerful one because, unlike how things were done in his creamery, we can’t send back the blueberries that don't quite meet the standard. In our business, we keep them all. The parents send us their very best after all, don’t they? It’s not like they keep the good ones at home! So it’s our job to bring out the flavor in our little blueberries, even the small, the tart, the thick-skinned. Find something that you like about each and every student; do what Aunt Norma did and make each one your favorite.
Since I’m hooked to literary connections, you can imagine my delight to find You Are All My Favorites by Sam McBratney some years back. In this treasure, the three bears start to see through their parents’ hyperbolic claims that they are the most wonderful bears and they start to fret that they can’t really ALL be the best. They worry that their mom and dad might like one better than the other. But the parents’ calm reassurance that they are all their favorites helps assuage their anxiety and soothe their stress.
As we cruise into another school year, my wish is that you find a way to make each one of your blueberries or bears your very favorite as you help them find their voice and write their next chapter, for every child truly IS a story waiting to be told.
Thank you, Barbara for sharing your story with us. Ms. Natzke reminds me of Mr. Slinger from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse and I may never think of blueberries in the same way. These are perfect reminders as we begin to think of the new school year and all that awaits us.
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