A Teachable Moment

By Amy Stutzman

Mid-morning, sweaty, slightly out of breath students excitedly hurried into Mrs. Korstick’s second grade classroom after just returning from P.E. class. They immediately began to plea, “Is it time yet?” “Is it time yet?”  Their excitement had been building for several days prior to my arrival as the classroom substitute teacher that day. I had to admit that I was excited too.  While the students were out of the classroom, I had looked over the substitute plans and noticed that the teacher had prepared, in celebration of Administration Assistant’s Day, a special activity for the students to present to their school secretary. In less than 15 minutes, we were scheduled to be in the office, it was time to do a run through.

“Yes, it’s almost time, so boys and girls this is what I need you to do…” I rattled off the order, and restated the instructions as to who was to do what. Well-rehearsed and single filed, sixteen students lined up in the middle of the classroom and waited as I handed them each a special item. As they chit chatted and giggled I worked my way down the line.  When every child was still and quiet, one by one they stepped forward and recited a statement that represented what they were giving to Mrs. Alleman.  “Here are Reese’s Pieces….because WE LOVE you to pieces!”  “This is a rubber band because you are really flexible.”  “Band aids because you always fix us.”  “and a bowl full of HUGS and KISSES!!”  After a great big “THANK YOU MRS. ALLEMAN!” we were ready to slither our way out of classroom, through the hallway and into the office.

The first little boy in the door, being ever so thoughtful in a hushed whisper warned, “Ssshhhh…she’s on the phone!” In response, each child warned the next by hushing and shoo-ing until everyone had made it into the door and across the length of the office. The students wrestled anxiously waiting for Mrs. Alleman’s attention. Squirming and trying to be unnoticeable, some of the more restless children tried to hide their items under their shirts, others behind their backs. Curiously, Mrs. Alleman’s eyes drifted over to the door and then across the width of her office.  She placed the phone down on the receiver and asked, “What’s going on guys?”  A sudden silence and a nervous tension swept across the now frozen second grade line. One by one each child hesitantly stepped forward and very shyly presented the school secretary with their tokens of appreciation. After the last child, carrying the bowl of Hershey kisses, announced as loudly and enthusiastically as he could “AND HERE’S A BOWL FULL OF HUGS AND KISSES!!!” The students together expressed a huge “Thank you, Mrs. Alleman!” Grinning from ear to ear, filled with immense gratitude and slightly tearful, Mrs. Alleman replied, “Thank you!”  I knew how touched she was, it was an amazing opportunity to see these enthusiastic eight-year olds tenderly present her with this gift in appreciation for her generosity and kindness she unceasingly provides to everyone who enters the office day after day throughout the school year.

The moment that grabbed my heart the most came after the presentation of the gift.  After we had left the office, I had followed behind the students and was the last to enter the classroom.  As I entered the room, each and every little radiating face was beaming with pure joy, real authentic joy.  It was as if these children had been the ones receiving gifts! They cheerfully chatted and I overheard an observant child remark, “We even made her cry, but it was a happy cry!” The joy that they expressed was definitely the contagious kind. 

The rest of the day ran very smoothly and the classroom atmosphere remained cheerful throughout the remainder of the afternoon.  As the day came to a close, after each desk was left empty and I closed the door, I realized that I had witnessed something amazing that day.  Thank you Mrs. Korstick’s Second Grade class for teaching me the importance of gratitude. Thank you for reminding me to be appreciative for those who give so much, and most importantly for the opportunity to experience loving- kindness in action.