Teachers are under enormous pressure these days to get students to meet specific academic standards. Most teachers recognize that true education involves far more than filling in the right bubbles on an answer sheet.

Often, more important things happen in the classroom than just basic academics.

Miss Pearson, a first-grade teacher, was having a bad day. She felt like a failure. Not every child was reading on grade level. Not every student showed a huge academic gain. Her classroom academic data didn’t look like the classroom across the hall.

She cried five times that day. She felt the weight of their future on her shoulders and wondered if she had done a disservice to her kids, their parents, the next teachers.

Then one of her students presented her with a humble, but meaningful, gift.

“Miss Pearson. I have you something.”

She hands me a box. “Thank you so much! What are they for?”

“Miss Pearson, before Christmas, you said you were out of Ziploc bags at home. I saw your sandwich and chips in the same bag. Nobody needs that. That’s gross.

“Plus, when we need something, you get it. When we lose our glue, you may not be happy, but you get us another one. Or when Joe eats his pencils, you tell him it’s wrong, but you still give him more.

“You told us that if we love people, we show them. You said real leaders show people. I just want to show you.”

Right then, reality hit her in the face. She wept again, but for a different reason.

“Yes, I care how well they read. But it’s okay if some of my students leave my class not reading at a certain level, as long as they leave better than they came, with a tender heart that loves others.

“Sure, the world needs better readers and writers . . . but our world really needs softer hearts, eager hearts, and willing hearts. Our world needs kids who observe more and learn from it. Our world needs more compassion.

“So all my kids may not be on level when they leave me, but they all leave me knowing they can be better, and that they have the potential within to make this world better.

“Anyone can teach them to read, but not everyone will teach them to care.”

Teachers have enormous influence over the children they teach. The more kids are taught to care for others, and to show it through kind deeds, the better the future world will be for all of us.

Being a teacher is so much more than merely helping kids develop academic skills. Dedicated educators care about nurturing the whole child—their heads and their hearts.

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