Somewhere in our daughter’s third grade classroom, there is this wall. And most of the students probably don’t think twice about it. But she does.
This evening, Ellee was feeling sad and so we sat and talked things out. I tried a bit unsuccessfully to get to the bottom of things. And finally, in between frustrated sobs, she sadly exclaimed, “That WALL is just stressing me out!”
In case you wondering, I’ve known about “the wall” all year. She told me about it early on and ever so often it would come up in conversation. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but tried not to say much. Because for most kids, seeing a wall with a fish hook on it and little fish that represent levels of the multiplication times tables isn’t really a big deal. Most of them are probably motivated seeing where they are and what they need to do to get to the top.
But when you have a child that struggles in school, that sort of a wall is kind of the worst. See, Ellee’s been working on her multiplication tables all year. But for her, it’s never been a matter of trying. Our sweet girl has consistently tried her hardest. But unfortunately, the wall doesn’t measure effort. And so she is where she is. And she sees it each week, in comparison to where all of her friends are. And sometimes it’s just discouraging.
Tonight, she cried about that wall. And oh, my heart wanted to just cry right along side of her. Because walls like that stink. Walls that compare. Walls that make you feel sad. Walls that can make you feel like everyone else is doing better than you are.
I wanted to call her teacher and ask her to take the wall down.
(Though, please let me note, that Ellee has three absolutely incredible teachers that we love and appreciate so much. They are wonderful and incredibly supportive of her and they are amazing at what they do. This is not meant to be a complaint against them at all.)
But then I thought about it. And I tried a different approach. “Ellee,” I said, “That wall only tells about a tiny part of who you are. Does that wall show how kind you are? Does it show how beautiful your heart is? Does it tell how well you make cookies from scratch for your Daddy or how nicely you can knit a scarf?” She tearfully shook her head no. “Then who cares?” I told her, “You look at that wall and you do your best. You look at that wall, and when you see your friends doing well, you tell them ‘Good job.’ But Ellee, don’t let that wall make you feel sad. You are a wonderful and a beautiful girl and you don’t need to worry about that silly wall.”
She wiped her tears away. And after a bit, she shared a story about how today she had asked her friends to join her when she sat by a girl from her class that was all alone. And my heart was so happy, knowing that our daughter has a good and a kind heart. We hugged tight and I told her that I was oh-so-proud of her. I told her we would continue to work on her multiplication tables, and I know that eventually she will get them. But till then, I’ll keep speaking truth into her heart so that she knows as the Bible says, that while others may look on the outside, God looks at what is most important and that is the heart. And if there were a wall that measured hearts, I know that our girl’s would be right up there with the best.