When I started teaching this year, I had high expectations. I had dreams of my future students sitting in neat groups, having stimulating, on-topic conversations about core standards. I imagined myself calling on raised hands, kneeling next to each child, and watching lightbulb moments occur for them time and time again. I would do it all effortlessly, with a tranquil smile permanently on my face.

Then school started, and I met Brian. (We’ll call him Brian, anyway.) Every day, he unveiled to me new triggers that I wasn’t aware I had. I found myself saying things I had never imagined I would say, like, “Please stop doing handstands—we’re walking in the hallway,” “Now is not a good time to do the coffee grinder—we’re doing phonics,” and “I don’t think it’s cool to ask people if their eyebrows are filled in with sharpie.” I was frustrated with him, and my tranquil smile became the exception rather than the norm.  

One day, I shared my woes with a coworker. She told me how she often thought about how she hoped her children were being treated at school. She kindly said, “Just remember that he is someone’s pride and joy.” It was shared in a light-hearted way, but it made me think. I thought about parents who are away from their kids for most hours every day, and how parents have no control of the way the person they care about most is spoken to. As the teacher, they trust that I will be kind.

As time went on, there were moments with Brian that were challenging, but I tried to treat him the way I knew his mom hoped I would. I tried to breathe before speaking. I tried to smile at him and laugh with him more. I told him I loved his dance moves. After a few weeks, I let his mom know that our relationship was improving, and his behavior in class was improving as well. She replied, “Thank you for being patient with him.”

I have thought recently about how our Heavenly Parents are away from us for a time. They’ve sent Their children out into the world, and They hope that people will be patient with them. They trust that others will be kind. They trust that I will be kind.

My students now and in the future will hopefully have earthly parents who cheer for them from home, but they will certainly always have Heavenly Parents who trust in me to be kind. As I have increased in kindness, I have seen my students increase in kindness toward me and toward each other. I am coming to understand that this kindness is the education our Heavenly Parents wanted us to earn while we are here. This is what They want for us. After all, we are Their pride and joy.