Trees Know What Children Need

When I die, she said, I’m coming back as a tree with deep roots & I’ll wave my leaves at the children every morning on their way to school & whisper tree songs at night in their dreams. Trees with deep roots know about the things that children need. Brian Andreas

Every day I come home to see this.



I look out my windows and I am grateful. Grateful to be seeing something so beautiful. Grateful to be alive. Grateful that I don’t have to do anything. I just have to stop for a moment look and be present. I need that. I need to connect to something larger then myself, something so beautiful and free. It keeps me grounded. Often this leads me to think of others who cannot just look out their window and see this. I think of people who are like me and yet they are not me. People who are struggling, people who need connection, who need beauty, who need freedom.

Trees, just being in their presence, it brings me peace. Trees and water and solid ground under my bare feet. These things connect me. Thoughts of connection always bring me back to my classroom, to the invisible strands that connect me to my kids. And I wonder have they ever known the peace of just being with a tree? Because when I think of trees I think of childhood. I think of digging beneath trees and dreaming beneath trees. I think of napping and cool breezes and dappled sunlight. And those blissful moments, shouldn’t they be free to everyone? Most especially children. Shouldn’t they know those moments of wonder and loveliness? And so I am always thinking, how do I bring the trees to my kids? How do I connect them to a world larger then themselves? Because if there is anyone who should know loveliness and wonder it’s children. Our kids, they need more connecting, more wonder, more loveliness. They don’t need more tests, more homework, more rote routine. These things they don’t build amazing human beings.

So I am going to keep thinking and challenging myself every day to be grateful, to wonder, to connect and in that connecting I think about my kids and how I can help them be amazing human beings.  I will be thinking about things that children need.

Mr. How to Be Awesome

I struggle with perfectionism both as a writer and as a teacher. As a writer I worry that the words aren’t good enough. As a teacher I worry that for the kids I am not enough, not patient enough, not knowledgable enough, and on and on. As a writer this stops me from putting words on the page. I have lots of words swirling around in my head and I don’t know how to arrange them on the page. The voice in my head gets frenetic and I shut down. As a teacher I withdraw from my kids, I take my true self out of the classroom and put in place a teacher self, a self that I learned is what a teacher is suppose to be.

This is where the story of Mr. How to Be Awesome comes to teach me a lesson that I need to learn over and over again.

We were learning to write informational text. I asked the kids to choose something they felt they were an expert on and then write about that to teach someone else. One of my guys wrote a piece called How to Be Awesome. On his story planning page he wrote and illustrated the following:

How to be awesome

First get good friends.
Get awesome clothes (Michael Jackson’s jacket)
Get a cool hair cut. (dye it blue)
Play soccer and be a goal keeper.
Awesome now you are.

I have to tell you that this little guy is awesome in so many ways and he struggles. He gets very upset when he doesn’t have the “right” answer or when he doesn’t win the game. He wants to always be perfect. We have been working through his quest for perfection because it holds him back from his own true awesomeness. He pulls back from the question he has no guaranteed right answer for because he is afraid, afraid of not appearing to be awesome.

One day he was really struggling during math. He was trying to play a math game with a friend. He spent the entire time micromanaging the game play and making both himself and his partner miserable. I took a deep breath and called him over for a private conversation.

I looked into his angry little face and with my most gentle voice said

You don’t have to always be right. You don’t always have to win. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be you. And what you are is great. Just be you and everyone will know how great you are.

And he burst into tears, he covered his face and he walked away. In that moment my heart broke a little because I know how he feels, what it is like to always be striving for perfection and then to find yourself crippled, unable to act because you are caught in the grip of fear, of someone finding out just who you are and how imperfect you are.

I have been sitting on this story for weeks unable to write it down. Unable to do the moment justice. I am giving up on that now. I am writing the story of Mr. How to Be Awesome because he is and so am I. We just need to be ourselves, to let people see us and know that that is enough.

I am putting uncertain words on paper and putting my real self back in the classroom, the self with all her doubts and questions and uncertainties. Each day I am letting the kids see me and I am seeing them so that we can discover all our awesomeness.