Working with Mrs. D. this year I’ve already learned many things… of all the gifts she’s given me, there’s one that rises to the top.

Last year, when I began teaching kindergarten, something happened to me for the first time in my professional career. Students began saying, ‘I love you’ – something most teachers don’t hear unless you work with the real itty bitty ones. Unsure how to reply, I usually said something like ‘Thank you, you’re special to me too’ or ‘You are so kind to say that’… typical guy reply, right?

In all honesty, I just wasn’t sure it was appropriate for me to say it back. To be clear, I do love my students… almost all of them, almost all the time. They bring light and joy into my life on a daily basis and I realize they teach me just as much as I teach them. I just didn’t know if those three little words were supposed to be used in the classroom.

Turns out, I was wrong… dead wrong. The first time I heard Mrs. D. say ‘Thank you, I love you too’ back to a child was a turning point for me. Hearing her say those three small words back to a child was liberating. From that moment, I began saying it back.

So to all my sprouts from last year that I denied this gift, here it is, in writing: I love you.