She fills up a bucket with warm water, bubbles rising to the surface. And she carries it back to her classroom where she will then take tubs full of toys off the shelf and painstakingly wash out these containers, soiled from a previous year's group of children.
These toys speak of memories.
They speak of the time that the students dumped the bucket full of cars into the sandbox and happily made roads in the piles of gritty dirt. And of the time that still others played restaurant and created a menu. The times when they played with colorful Play-doh and made cookies and caterpillars and butterflies. Times when they dressed up in costumes and made-believe they were all grown-up. The boys, that they were princesses; the girls, that they were doctors. And she remembers still other times. When children created memories and grew their minds with the humble offerings of a little Kindergarten classroom, hidden away at the bottom of the stairs, room 103.
She washes the play kitchen and thinks of the children.
She sorts books into categories and remembers them even more. Their first day of school, they were so little! So timid. Their first fall at school, then came Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. Their first Christmas celebrated in a school classroom. She remembers singing "Away in a Manger," detailed in a beautiful Christmas book, a song sung for one little girl who was listening to this famous Christmas hymn for the very first time. She remembers the little girl who cried and asked her in whispered voice to "sing that again, please." She remembers that moment like it was yesterday. She remembers so much. She remembers the books that the children liked best, and she sets them out on a bookshelf for a new group of students to discover, this year.
She remembers, for she could stop the flood of memories and recollections even if she tried.
And all the while, she thinks and plans. She creates. And in her mind's eye, she envisions them. The children yet to come. And yet, she cannot forget the children that have already gone on before. The ones who have forever left their precious impressions on her heart.
For she knows that to teach is to forever be a part of something bigger. Is to forever be a piece of that sacred puzzle which creates something profound from that which is very small. That is the beauty of the life of a child. And she knows that what she does is holy work, akin to being a mother. A daughter. An aunt. A sister. A child.
For she was once a child. And she remembers still, all those who touched her life. Those who made a difference in the life of one specific child.
And here she is now, having come full circle. A surrogate for those who have entrusted her with their own precious children, children who fill their parents' heart and soul. Who now have a place in her own heart. Children who mean so much to so many who love them. And as the children come, year after year, they fill up the classroom emptiness with joy and laughter. With magic. And they leave behind memories and stories.
They leave behind a history.
And as the teacher remembers, she reminds herself that to teach is to touch lives. To listen. To lift. To motivate. To compel. To inspire. To encourage. To enrich. And above all. To teach is to use one's life to make a difference. To make an impact.
She places the last cart of art supplies up against the wall, under the sign stating for new readers that this is an "Art Area." Then she turns out the light and she walks out the door, looking back over her shoulder for one last check.
And she sees for the last time, before she returns to this little room where she will teach: that it is all good.
It truly is a good place to be.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
91 percent of teachers buy basic school supplies for their students.
2 in 3 teachers (67%) purchase food or snacks to satisfy the basic nutritional needs of their students -- even ones who are already enrolled in their schools' free or reduced-price meal program.
1 in 3 teachers purchase clothing for children, including jackets, hats and gloves (30%) or shoes and shoe laces (15%).
18 percent of teachers purchase personal care items, such as toothbrushes and sanitary products.
Nearly 1 in 3 teachers (29%) purchase items such as toilet paper and soap that their school cannot provide enough of due to budget cuts.
More than half of all teachers have paid the costs of field trips for students who couldn't afford to participate otherwise.
Several teachers reported purchasing alarm clocks for students. Due to work schedules or family circumstances, guardians were unable to wake their children for school, which led to absences and academic underperformance.
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