2018-08-10 / Education

Shopping the classroom: Sometimes you get good school supplies, sometimes you get something more

By Tammy Davis

Shopping the classroom. It’s what happens when a teacher is leaving. The other teachers scout the room for things they would like to have. Like all shopping experiences, some rooms are better to shop than others. My friend Melissa’s room would have been the Rodeo Drive of classroom shopping, but for some reason I missed the shopping day.

I should have known she would have my back, she always does. I walked in after everyone else had picked her room clean, and there was a little pile marked for me. There were some great items she knew I would love, and then there was one thing that didn’t fit. It didn’t look like anything I had seen in her room. It was a wooden star. The wood was unfinished, and it had some gold glitter inside. I returned the star with a note that said she could find a different home for that odd piece. She came to me in person and said no, I had to be the one to have that star. “You have to be the one I give this to,” she said.

So here’s the story of the star… A student had given her the star one year at Christmas. It was meant to be a holiday decoration but she kept it up all year. Melissa has impeccable taste. This star did not look Melissa-approved, until I learned the story.

To Melissa, that star represented the best of what teachers do. It was a tangible representation of her educational philosophy. The star was awkward —too big to be an ornament, not big enough to be a wreath. That star was like so many students who didn’t quite fit. But Melissa loved that star the way she loved her kids. Teachers like Melissa look past awkward. Teachers like Melissa look inside and see the glitter. Teachers like Melissa look inside and find the sparkle inside each child. Teachers like Melissa don’t try to put kids in a category. It doesn’t matter if you’re an ornament or a wreath or a super star worthy of the top of the tree. It doesn’t matter which side is showing— your unfinished dull wood side or your shiny glitter side. Melissa finds value and beauty in all these things. Some people would have tossed that star years ago the way some students are tossed.

While there were some things I had my eye on in Melissa’s room I did not get, I’m so proud and happy she trusted me with the star that is awkward on the outside but shiny and beautiful on the inside.

As teachers we have a choice, we can look at the test scores on paper or we can try to look inside each student. What makes them shine? What makes them sparkle? What makes them beautiful? What speaks to them and gets them excited about learning?

If I had been around on the official shop the classroom day, I never would have given the star a second look. I’m so thankful she put that star on my desk.

It’s that time of year when teachers start to get their rooms ready for the school year. I’ll be doing the same.

First on my To Do list: find a special spot for my Melissa star, my important reminder. Always look inside. Forget appearances. Forget what’s on the outside. Get to know each child, really get to know them. You never know what you’ll find when you do.

So this is the story of the star and the story of why the world needs more teachers like Melissa Szymanski.

For more stories by Tammy Davis, visit tammydavisstories.com.

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