It’s 9:30 on a Saturday night, and I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about a darn shoe. Actually, that’s not totally true. I am thinking about a child that was wearing that darn shoe. Tonight, I lay on my bed as my children were asleep, and my husband was walking the dog, and decided to catch up on some Ron Clark reading. If you are in education, or life, for that matter, and you don’t know who Ron Clark is, run, I say, run to your nearest bookstore or computer and buy one of his books. As a matter of fact, just Google him. Trust me on that!

Anyway, while reading The Essential 11, by Ron Clark, something stuck with me. The idea that a great teacher is full of compassion. That brings me to that shoe. A few years ago, I had a student whose shoes were perpetually untied. Not only were this child’s shoes untied, but this child always lagged back in my classroom when we were all headed out to PE, lunch, recess, really anywhere. Have you ever heard the quote, “The children that need the most love, ask for it in the most unlovable ways.”? Well, this child, God bless ‘em, just was that child. Just to make a long story short, we’d had some bumps in the road.

Nonetheless, I came to believe this child was untying his shoes and hanging back in the classroom to cause a little mischief. While sitting at the dinner table, conducting a PD (professional development) with my husband, who is also a teacher, he said to me, “Why don’t you just tie this child’s shoes?” Why had I not thought of this? Probably because I was too wrapped up in believing I knew why their shoes were perpetually untied.

The next morning, before the child entered our classroom, I stopped him, bent down, and with a smile on my face said, “Hey, Friend! How are you today? I’m going to take care of the shoe laces for you!” I looked at him, and knew, I had won. That is until, I looked at his shoes.

The shoes were no less than two sizes too big, and I had to roll this child’s pants up at least three times to even get to the darn shoe. I just fill with so much emotion thinking about that moment. The laces on the shoes were so knotted, and jumbled up. It looked like this child had tried to tie the shoes and failed more times than I wanted to think about. I worked on getting those knots out, then pulled the strings tightly. Then this child said to me, “Thank you, Mrs. Haynes. That feels so much better. It always feels like my shoes are going to come off, and no one has ever taught me how to tie them.”

No words. Just none. I had been so wrapped up in trying to decipher a motive. I had really overlooked and avoided compassion.

Let me tell you now, that child knows how to tie their shoes, and now they can tie those shoes tight. But, like I said, this story isn’t really about a shoe. It’s a constant reminder to me, “What are we really teaching them?” Standards are important, and we as educators want students to achieve and succeed in that way, but we are only going to do that through compassion and empathy for our students.

To this day, I always look at their shoes. Their shoes will tell you so much.


Good night, Friends.