You arrive early, way ahead of the time you are required to be here, according to your teaching contract. You have already been awake for hours, priming both your spirit and your mind for the wee cherubs who will come your way in a few moments. You want to give them the best day you possibly can … almost more than you want anything in all the world at this moment. You are constantly, silently, subconsciously reminding yourself that love is the answer to all you may face this day. You lean forward in your chair, listening for that first hint of the invisible patter of little feet prancing toward you from down the hall.

Ready or not, here they come! Some are jubilant. Some are sad. All are happy to see you. For many, it’s the best part of their day … getting to come to school.

Destiny rounds the corner to your room and trips. You can tell she’s not hurt, but it causes a chain reaction behind her. You leap to your feet and shout, “Safe!” in your Sunday-best Little League umpire voice, then quickly run to the window in an attempt to divert all attention to a butterfly fluttering by (even children who just fell to the carpet cannot complain and watch a butterfly at the same time).

Robby places a rock into your hand and begins to tell you all about it. Cindy’s chirpy-loud voice over-rides Robby’s to proceed to tell you all about what happened at her apartment last night, police arriving and all. Timmy mopes in and plops down on a chair, his backpack still on, staring blankly with dead fish eyes. Derek streaks into the room with the energy of Thing One and Thing Two combined, nearly knocking over a container full of water you have ready for a science experiment. You are 30 seconds into your school day.

Bobby sheepishly hands you a note, filled with threats to “have your job,” scribbled by a parent who completely misunderstood something you said to her child in class yesterday. At virtually the same instant, Sally rapturously hands you a homemade card that she obviously spent hours creating. The card says, “I feel safe in your class. You make me glad that I was born.” As your moistened eyes scan her card, the moment of silence begins (whereby all children can choose to pray silently, or just sit quietly and think about their day). Near the end of this moment of silence, Susie begins sobbing softly. The morning announcements begin over the intercom. You are two minutes in.

After bowing down briefly, to gently assuage the pain of an 8-year-old girl who was told on the bus by an older child that she was dumb, you immediately stand straight up and at attention. All wailing, all whining, all joyous jubilating, all staring off into space … everything … all of it … ceases at once while all children around you stand at attention to listen to our national anthem and say the Pledge of Allegiance together.

As the last syllable of the Pledge is sounded, Mary looks up at you to say she can’t find a pencil. Tabatha hands you a note that says she’s a car rider today. And Timmy tells you he is feeling sick and needs to go to the bathroom.

More quickly than most people can read this paragraph, you point Mary to where the pencils are (for the 17th day in a row), lay Tabatha’s note on your desk, then pull a $20 bill out of your pocket (as you walk toward the front of the classroom), wave it in the air and tell Timmy that if he doesn’t live through the day you’ll buy flowers for his funeral (as you know all too well the real reason he is claiming to be sick; he just wants male attention, as his father was put in jail last week).

You are six minutes in. It’s now time for your first class to begin.

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Ben Talley is an inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, a former Virginia Teacher of the Year, and a McGlothlin Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

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