She runs into school each morning, her smile as wide as the moon, excited for whatever the day holds. She is maybe 6, and she sparkles, all almost 47 pounds of her. She sparkles from her blond curls to her glittery sneakers. She has several pairs of them, in silver and gold and pink; some have bunny ears, and some have pink kitten noses. We were talking one morning, my little fashionista friend and I, and I said, "You know, I have silvery glittery shoes like that."
The D Miss M said, "You're not wearing them."
"No, I'm not."
"I don't know," I replied, in resignation.
I thought about why I bought these shoes and what happens inside my head every time I put them on. "I'm too old." "They're too dressy to wear to work." "They're too casual to wear out." "They're too flat to wear with pants." "They're too flat to wear with dresses." "They make my feet look too big."
I thought about the other child, a young man, really, who I thought had taught me this lesson, 8 years ago. Too ________. Always too ________. Too ________ for what? Who was doing the judging here? Why? And I wondered why I couldn't allow myself to sparkle just a little bit. They're only SHOES after all. They make DMM very happy, and DMM has every reason NOT to be happy. She has dyslexia; her brain learns differently. I don't think she knows yet that school could become a struggle for her. She is happy and curious because she has teachers who know how to teach her the way she learns best. I devote every one of my working minutes trying to creating a world where children like Miss M never have to lose their sparkle. They don't have to be judged for what they can't do, and we do our best to honor what they can. They deserve the best teachers, the best chance in life. They deserve all the promise that Miss M holds when she runs through that front door, radiant in the morning sun with the future ahead of her.
The next day, I said to Miss M, "You know, Friday is a dress down day."
"I'm going to wear my sparkly shoes."
"Then we can be twins!"
"Yes, we can."
"Pinky promise," Miss M. insisted.
"Pinky promise," I affirmed.
And I did.
These interesting, creative minds deserve the best teaching, and I pray every day that the little Miss M's of the world will never have to know the kind of struggle that will extinguish their spirits. Yes, they need to struggle enough to develop grit, face challenges, stare failure in the face, and push beyond it. They also need teachers who are willing to share their best selves. Just like our students do, we need to be able to own our challenges, but we also need to be willing to shine. We need to light their way. We need to reflect their light. Shine on, Miss M. Thank you for the lesson. I hope you will always sparkle.
PS - I have no financial or nonfinancial relationships to disclose with TOMS shoes; however, if you are not already aware of their mission, you should be. For every product you purchase, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services to people in need.