Spirit Saturday: Living Like A Toddler

The other day I went running. And as I ran I was thinking. I call this runking.

I was wondering what makes us truly come alive?

So then I asked the next question.

What kind of humans have I seen that are fully alive?

The answer came running at me. It literally threw its arms around me. With total disregard to appropriate public behavior, personal space, normal decibel levels, and thought to anything but the one emotion that coursed through it, my little toddler yelled, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” shot out the door and down the sidewalk, racing towards me, and leapt into my arms as if we’d been parted for fifty years.

She was happy to see me. And she shared that joy with me.

That is living.

J.M. Barry says of fairies: “Fairies are not all bad. Sometimes they are all good. But fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time.”

He could have been talking about toddlers, too. What a terror to be consumed with anger you cannot control, so that all you are is a raging ball of fiery rage. Isn’t this why they sometimes call toddlers little terrors?

But the opposite of that–to feel joy so strong that it radiates from you like an energy burst, that would be a mighty fine feeling. This type of fierce joy, wild thankfulness for the moment, and consuming emotional high is something that we should hold onto from our childhood. It will help you live.

Another thing I see in my toddler that makes her so alive is her ability to learn.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that eighty percent of the brain’s total growth and development occur by the age of three.

That’s a lot of learning, y’all.

Basically every minute of her day is either spent in sleeping, eating, or learning. During play, she’s introduced to hinges, texture, velocity, rhythm, ethics, momentum, and it’s only when she’s older and those mysteries are explained do they cease to be a wonder. You know kids fascination with buttons? When I was young, I thought the dream job would to be a cashier at Wal-Mart because GOOD GOLLY LOOK AT ALL THOSE BUTTONS!!! Now I see my kids watch the cashiers with envy and fascination. I wonder if any of those cashiers took the job because it’s exactly what they wanted to do as a child: Professional Button Pusher.


Sometimes I’ll remark to my husband, “the kids are so busy. and we’ve done nothing all day.” But we both know that’s a lie. They’re not just running from toy to toy, making forts, asking questions, reading books, doing chores (or not doing chores), turning off and on lights, playing hide and seek, and playing with their plastic figurines for HOURS . . . really, they are learning about the way this world works.

I don’t think my brain can handle so much learning anymore. I can take like, one new thing a day. And I usually don’t even remember that forever.

To be truly alive, I think you have to love and pursue learning. This (of course) doesn’t just mean academic learning. You could be dumb as a nail regarding academia but sharp as a whip in regards to people. The learning is what’s important. You’re not stagnant. Your mind, heart, spirit, and strength are always moving and growing and changing. That’s living.

Another thing about my toddler is her lack of pretentiousness.

When she tells me she likes my drawing, I believe her. She says what’s in her heart, without regard to social appropriateness or cues or norms.

As we walked into the grocery store a woman came out wearing a long skirt and heels, and my girl shouted, “Oh you have such beautiful shoes you look like a princess! Did you see her, mama, she is so beautiful!” It didn’t matter to my girl what her weight, height, skin color, or anything else was–she was just amazed at the wonderful white heels and long green skirt.  (Of course, that unpretentiousness can also go the other way. A man with curly, slick hair and a bowling shirt walked past our cart and my little girl said, “He’s a bad man, I don’t like him.”)

I think being open and honest with those around you, when it stems from a loving heart, is a part of what living is about. And seeing right and wrong for what they are, instead of society telling you what they are, is important. This purity and honesty is a beautiful thing to see in someone. It’s a noble thing, and I see it in toddlers.

Yeah, speaking of nobility . . . my toddler is stuffing flour down her pants. I better go and teach her society’s norms of appropriate location for flour.

What qualities do you see in people who are fully alive?

What does it take to re-awaken yourself?

Good Teacher

Good teachers shape minds, which in turn shape lives, which in turn shape communities, which in turn shapes culture. So if you have a good teacher — I suggest you purposefully fail your class so you can continue to learn from that teacher next semester.

Today, I present to you two good teachers, Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Shirtliffe.

I found the funny King of Pop, Mr. Clay Morgan, at educlaytion.com , where he blogs about pop culture and is always funny and interesting and funny and relatable and funny and smart … and did I mention funny? You must follow him on twitter and friend him immediately, and you’ll discover what a great guy he is. Oh, and funny. He’s pretty funny, too.

Then I met the beautiful and classy (with a bit of silly on top) Mrs. Leanne Shirtliffe. She also responds to Mrs. Colin Firth and Shakespeare. Over at her blog, IronicMom.com , her motto is “if you can’t laugh at yourself, laugh at your kids.” This lady is awesome with words … specifically, words that make you laugh. She’s full of witty observances and hilarious stories and is also kind and encouraging. You won’t regret following her on twitter.

So, I asked them some questions this week about their life as enemies of the freedom of students …. uh, I mean, as teachers! ;)

1.) First of all, let’s clarify something. Are you in fact human beings, or are you robots from another world sent to influence the minds of our young?
Mr. Clay: I am programmed to answer that question by saying I am, in fact, a human.
Ms. Leanne: I am a human being on Thursdays and Fridays. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I’m a robot. Wednesdays are a toss up, but alien life form is a possibility.
2.) Do you actually like students?
Mr. Clay: Yes! I love all earth units, er, people.
Ms. Leanne: I do. And the longer I’ve been doing this teaching gig, the more I like them. Teens are way smarter than anyone ever gives them credit for. They have built in BS-detectors. And that’s a good thing.
3.) Do you spend all your time thinking of new assignments to bury your students in or do you do other things? Like write encyclopedias or something?
Mr. Clay: I prefer students to come up with assignments themselves, but they never believe I’m serious, so I have to do all the work on that end. If I bury students too much they won’t be able to go shopping and buy me gifts which is really all the homework I need to see *wink*
Ms. Leanne: When I’m not plotting how to make students get as little sleep as possible on a Sunday night, I tend to spend a lot of time grading. I’m also working on a A-Z book of how to annoy teens in the classroom. (A is for Accents. Speak in a bad British/Australian one all class and watch students squirm).
4.) What’s your definition of a good student?
Mr. Clay: A good student questions things first and foremost. In order to do that they have to be listening and thinking. Good students have plans even if those plans don’t always work out. They work towards goals even if the goal changes along the way.
Ms. Leanne: A good student is one who’s willing to ask the hard questions and is willing to listen to (but not always agree with) the answers. A good student knows when to trust you and when to challenge you.
5.) What’s your definition of a bad student?
Mr. Clay: A “bad” student just doesn’t care. They don’t try when they could do well. They complain about how hard things are yet never ask anyone for help. They float towards nothing and hit that goal. These students may do poorly, but I still love them all!
Ms. Leanne: I’d say there are no bad students, only students who make bad decisions. “Gifted underachievers” are some of the most challenging students I teach. They are phenomenally bright but are jaded by the education system and are just getting by.
6.) What’s your biggest challenge at school?
Mr. Clay: Hmm, I want to say something about administrators here, but they also sign my paychecks. I would say getting students to wake up and realize how much is out there for them if they just go for it is a challenge. Most students don’t realize what is possible until years later. The few that do are soaring.
Ms. Leanne: Grading and meetings. Schools are sterile places when there aren’t students in them.
7.) Have you ever snapped sleeping students with a rubber band or thrown a pencil at them? What would happen if you catch them texting another student a nasty note about your style choice for the day?
Mr. Clay: I’ve only thrown the following objects at students: Starburst, Skittles, chalk, erasers, Hershey Kisses, books, garbage, fire, other students, and knowledge.
Ms. Leanne: I’m amazed at how much students notice. “You got your hair highlighted, didn’t you?” or “Those are new shoes.” I’d laugh. In my second year of teaching, there was a Spirit Day where students could come as twins. Two students dressed like me: black boots, black pants, jacket.
8.) Why did you choose to be a teacher – instead of a spy or something? Or . . . are you a teacher/spy as I initially suspected? Come on, your secret’s safe with me!
Mr. Clay: Not sure I chose anything. A teacher is just who I am. I was made to be it. For now I do the work in a classroom, but I may teach in another setting someday. We’re all made for specific purposes. A great person once said “Know who you are. Accept who you are. Be who you are.”
Ms. Leanne: Teaching was actually my “fall back” career, and I’m glad I fell.
9.) What’s a funny test answer/essay mistake you’ve caught?
Mr. Clay:  Ha, I once asked what George Washington did to save the morale of his troops on Christmas Day 1776. The answer I wanted was that he crossed the Delaware River and won a military victory. An answer I got was that he gave them all a honey baked ham.
Ms. Leanne: Here’s a student mistake: My eighth graders had to memorize a Shakespearean insult and walk into class and insult me with gusto. One innocent, honor roll student walked in, swaggered up to me, and said, “Thou frothy, milk-livered SLUT.” He had meant to say “scut” but misspoke.
I’ve made many slip ups too. I usually write the agenda on the board each clas. I’ve written “ass” before (instead of assignment) and “anal” (instead of analysis). Oops. Much laughter ensued.
10.) How do you relax after spending all day with eager young minds that need molding?
Mr. Clay: I play with words and write a lot. It’s not even like work to me. All this writing is accompanied by a lot of music pumping into my brain via ear buds.
Ms. Leanne: I’m lucky in that I have 7-year-old twins at home, so I tend to play with them. Once they’re in bed, I write and read. Yup. I’m pretty much the stereotypical English teacher (without gray hair or a bun). I also have a mean jump shot, so I’m sometimes shooting hoops in the front yard.
11.) Why do you believe … ya know, learning is good for students?
Mr. Clay: Learning is good for everyone. I learn many things every day! The truth is that knowledge is power, and as a famous guy once said, “the truth will set you free.”
Ms. Leanne: Learning is good for everyone. It’s the only way we grow. And if we’re not growing (i.e. not learning), we are the walking dead.
It’s been an honor having these good teachers on my blog.
Do you have any questions for these good teachers?
Tell me about a good teacher you’ve had!

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