Adjectives, nouns, and verbs. Second grade begins to teach the navigation of words in the English language. My seven year old had no problem with nouns and verbs, but adjectives trouble her. As seen by this recent work assignment at school in which she assigned adjectives to the character Mog, her teacher, orange chicken, and herself. The first three she did okay, by second grade standards, but when she came to assigning adjectives that describe herself, she faulted.

The day she brought it home she was sad and embarrassed. Like every kid with perfectionistic tendencies, she was disappointed with how much pink was present on her paper. She said to me, “I failed.” And gave a groan of annoyance and frustration.

Pulling her into a hug, we sat down together and began to read what was written.

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We reviewed her work. We read the instructional note on the bottom of the page. Then we began to read the examples her teacher had written for her – about her. As I read the words out loud, these descriptive words that were part of a WORK ASSIGNMENT I saw her slowly start to relax. Her shoulders came down an inch or two. Her hands unfolded. She leaned back in the couch. The tightness in her brow and lips slackened.


Smart   Brunette   Tall   Curious   Athletic   Happy   Cautious


We talked about each one her teacher had listed. Did she agree? Yes, yes, she did agree. They were descriptive words that affirmed who she was in terms of ability, but also in character. She smiled at the end. We talked briefly about the difference between learning and failing, and this exercise was clearly about learning. Then she said,

I feel good that my teacher knows me. I feel good that she can list so many nice things about me. I’m so happy she is my teacher.

It was at that moment that I realized two things were happening. She was learning by personal experience about adjectives – that much was clear. But she was learning too that her teacher both knew her and affirmed her.

Teachers. Her teacher changed the trajectory of that learning moment. She could have only advised her learning with the note on the bottom, but went the extra mile to list adjectives that communicated with my daughter, and in turn affirmed her. I realize she may not even know the significance of what she has done, as do so many teachers I know who give of themselves and their energies without pause. So today I want to say thank you.

Thank you teachers.

For going the extra mile.

Thank you for caring for our children in unique and wonderful ways that affirm their person and encourage their learning.


Generous  Kind  Thoughtful  Sacrificial  Gifted  Caring  Indulgent


Those are my adjectives for you today.