TRUST: Teaching in 2020

Little Sarah approaches the gate to the Kindergarten yard gripping her father’s strong fingers tightly. Her bright smile is hidden under two masks: one is green with pink flowers; the other is apprehension. School has changed a lot, and her teacher’s warm smile is hidden behind masks of her own. Sarah hears the caring in my voice and sees it in my eyes, but it takes more trust and emotional effort to accept it.

Image by 41330 from Pixabay

After a few tears and Dad’s gentle encouragement, she reluctantly pulls her hand out of his and reaches for mine. This is her first expression of trust today, and I will not crush it by reminding her that we are meant to stay at least a meter a part. I’ll wash my hands later. I hold her little fingers and give them a squeeze.

“We are going to have a fun day!” I promise, and she looks into my eyes for reassurance. I see the shift happen; the second that Sarah offers me the gift of her trust. She is mine now – mine for the next six hours.

Sarah has an advantage over some of our little pumpkins – she is in her second year of Kindergarten with me. She has seen my whole face, experienced my smile, and knows she can trust me.

Trust is one of the most beautiful things about teaching Kindergarten. In our inquiry-based program, we learn about a wide range of topics, allowing the students to lead with their natural curiosity about the world. So, every year is different; not only with new faces, but with new interests. I love the spontaneity of it, the freedom to cover the curriculum in a unique way every year. Their little faces light up with new discoveries, and they trust that I’m telling the truth when I share crazy facts. Yes, the polar bear’s skin is black under all that white fur. Yes, birds only have one elimination spot, so what they drop is a pee/poop-calcified combo. And yes, the footprints on the moon will be there for 100 million years. I could tell them that Santa broke his leg and his brother old Saint Chris was taking over his run this year, and they would accept it as fact. Their trust gives me power and responsibility.

I had a student, when I taught Grade 3 a number of years ago, who was not as trusting. He held a lot of knowledge in his young head and questioned everything. When I shared cool facts like those above, he raised his hand for permission to add to the discussion. His response always began with the same two words: “Well, actually…” And then he went on to explain how one could argue with the truth of some part of my statement. I hoped that this habit of his did not have a negative impact on how my other students trusted my word.

After two full weeks of our strange 2020 school year, during which twenty of my students and my teaching partner have all missed a number of days and have suffered through invasive COVID tests, I find myself on Val’s Stage thinking about trust.

We were officially informed yesterday morning that a student in our school tested positive for COVID-19. Considering how the common cold has spread like wildfire in our class, despite all the precautions we’re taking, the risk of the virus traveling two floors down in our four-story building seems quite high. Going to work each day requires trust. I trust public health experts who tell me that wearing my mask and visor and maintaining distance makes me low-risk. I trust that all the hand washing, sanitizing, disinfecting, separating with plexiglass dividers, controlling the number of students who access an area at once, will help lessen my chance of contracting it. I trust, as I acknowledge my 51st birthday, that as a healthy woman who hasn’t yet been labeled “vulnerable”, I will be okay if I do get it.

But putting my trust in OPH (Ottawa Public Health) gives me limited confidence – they are human and not all-knowing; fallible. There were delays in getting the test result, delays in informing the school, and miscommunication with families.

Thankfully, I have another layer of trust to keep me centered. I trust in an all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves me. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.

That doesn’t mean I’m immune from getting the virus. That doesn’t mean I won’t die if it attacks my body. What it does mean is that He is in control. He has my life mapped out. If I put my full trust in him, I don’t need to worry or stress. He will take care of me.

I claim the promises in God’s Word:

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”

Psalm 37:5

“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Exodus 14:14

Don’t call me a frontline hero. I’m just one of the Hero’s kids.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40: 31

I trust You, Father.

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