Let His Gift Flow

“Not everyone in the school understood the passion that fueled Octavious.”

Editor’s Note: In our section Educational Foundations, we discuss how to nurture a child’s Gifts and Talents. The real events recorded below are intended to remind us all that, as educators, our never-changing directive to promote excellent character includes recognizing and encouraging one’s purpose.

One Teacher’s Account:

Four years ago …

Happy graduation: This year, a group of my kindergarten children will be graduating from high school. As the teacher who escorted them into this, now ending season of academic achievement, I am both proud and hopeful. Proud of all the boys and girls who made it to the finish line, and hopeful that each will continue on a journey of self-discovery. Especially Octavious.

Twelve years ago: Octavious was big for his five years, with bright eyes and a smile that lit up the room. His name said it all. Like an octave, he was a totally self-contained musical interval.

We all loved being in his presence. He was confident, capable, and paternal. Our classroom was his flock, and he pastored with compassion and grace. If there were a dispute between students, he would skillfully mediate until it was resolved. Broken hearts were mended and sick children comforted by this classroom minister.

Octavious’ mother and I were careful to nurture this remarkable child’s gift while guiding him to remain within the boundaries of appropriate behavior. But we both knew that at times, when he deviated beyond the limits of conventional behavior, his intent was pure. We simply explained the consequences that such an impulse had on the rest of the class, and he would comply. But not everyone in the school understood the passion that fueled Octavious.

Other teachers would ask me how I could tolerate his disruptive behavior. But he was not disruptive. He was simply driven by his need to shepherd. And it was our job, as educators, to direct his passion toward appropriate channels, while nurturing the gift.

Ten years ago: After the school year ended, I moved away and did not hear from Octavious for several years. Then one day a letter came. The childlike writing – as big and emphatic as its author – told a sad tale. Octavious was in the principal’s office again. To keep him occupied, the principal had told him to write me a letter. As I read between the lines, I could see that Octavious spent a lot of time in this special seat of correction. I took the opportunity to write him back. I told him that he was special. I told him that he was a leader and that it was important for leaders to follow the school rules. What I did not tell him was that his teacher needed to focus less on absolute obedience and more on nurturing his gift. Yes, he was impulsive. But he was also bright, compassionate, and capable. “Work to his strengths,” I wanted to say. “Let him use that pastoral anointing to begin a class-mentoring program. Let him teach mediating skills. Let his gift flow!

To Octavious, my wonderful musical interval …
May all of your dreams be realized.
________________________

Today …

Recently we learned that Octavious has graduated from college with a double major, one being Psychology. I sent him “congratulations” and we messaged back and forth for a few days. I could tell that he was at a crossroads so I told him all the things I didn’t get to say when he was younger. That he was wonderful, gifted, and a leader. He was overcome with gratitude. Yes, he was still the compassionate soul I met so long ago! Finally, I wished him a happy life and then set him free. So, once more I say  …

To Octavious, my wonderful musical interval …
May all of your dreams be realized.

________________________

As educators, may we never feel the sting of this quote from Seventeen Magazine (circa 1965):

“And turning back upon the sterile desert, I saw a sprouted seed, crushed in my footstep.”

– End –

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