As school starts, a gentle reminder for those who teach
Please teach him gently.
That’s the prayer every mom and dad óand every grandparent ó with a big boy or girl prays when the first day of school finally comes and suddenly they look very small on that first day whether it’s pre-school or kindergarten or the first grade. Their little ones wave goodbye or kiss you hurriedly or even forget to do either and maybe even cry a bit.
And I’m back in that group again. Both of daughter Susie’s children are going out into the world on their own in Durham ó her John will start kindergarten, his first full day of school, and Rosie can’t wait to get started, too, and their grandmother wonders where all the days have gone.
But we’re not alone.
My niece, Laura Clark, and her husband, Steve, sent their Bennet to pre-kindergarten.
And no matter how the world has changed since I first passed on that letter from an anonymous principal in Franklin, Ind. His message to his son’s first teacher, I thought, said it best about the big First Day of School.
I was sure I had more butterflies in my stomach and questions churning my heart when my oldest child, David, started school and our other four and all the usual questions followed.
Will he learn? Will her teacher love her? Would he make a friend? Would she remember to raise her hand when she needed to go to the bathroom? Would his new shoes pinch?
So it’s time again for that letter from the principal, whose message to his son’s first teacher said it best for his son and yours and mine.
“My son starts to school today,” he wrote.
“It’s all going to be strange and new to him for a while, and I wish you would sort of treat him gently.
“Up to now, he’s been boss of the backyard. I have always been around to repair his wounds, and I’ve always been handy to sooth his feelings.
“But now …
“Things are going to be different,
“This morning he walked down the front steps, waved his hands and started on his great adventure that probably will include wars and tragedy and sorrow.
“To live his life in the world he has to live in will require faith and love and courage. So, teacher, I wish you would sort of take him by his young hand and teach him the things he will have to know.
“Teach him ó but gently, if you can.
“He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, that all men are not true.”Teach him that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every every crooked politician there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick.
“Teach him the wonders of books. Give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill.
“‘Teach him about the world of work. Teach him that it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong.
“Try to give my son strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men, but to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
“Teach him to sell his brawn and brains to the highest bidder, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul.
“Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob, and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.
“Teach him gently, but don’t cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
“This is a big order, teacher, but see what you can do. He’s such a nice little fellow, my son.”
Rose Post is now retired from the Salisbury Post.