Don’t Ruin My Picture! Or The Sweater (by Guest Blogger Linda Zeppa)

Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger, Linda Zeppa has the privilege of being a teacher to the youngest of students and the stories I hear her tell when we sit for writing time together make me smile. She is the kind of teacher I loved as a student myself. She is the kind of teacher who lets children manage themselves as much as they are able and is there to support when it is asked for or needed. I remember the time she shared this story with me and why I asked her to write down for the sake of a guest blog.

We all need people in our lives who will let us be and express ourselves naturally. And honestly, those people for some are few and far between. It may not be a child’s parents and that may be due to the parents doing their best but having issues of their own…from their own growing up years and/or parents. There is no perfect parent, no perfect children, and growing up is bound to have its ups and downs. Within this roller coaster ride called life are the memorable and teachable moments;  And speaking of teachers:

I am grateful for the teachers I have been blessed with who effectively neutralized some rough years I had as a child growing up–whose unconditional support and genuine desire to let me be myself made “all the difference.”  Being a teacher is not easy work and I see this as I drop by my daughter’s class for a quick face to face check-in on occasion. So many students with so many little demands. It requires the patience of a saint from my vantage point. I too had teachers like Linda who loved the work of being a teacher–who let me also be myself in their classrooms.

Becoming one’s Natural Self is easier when our caregivers “let us be,” when they don’t impose their world view too early, when they let us do our best in the moment and appreciate us for it. And some things that teachers do will stay with us for a very long time. And some times the things we do with teachers, stay with them for a very long time. I hope you enjoy the vision of Linda’s classroom experience as much as I did. I hope you, reader, also had a teacher like Linda somewhere in your development of Self! ~ Deborah Drake


Years ago I was working in a classroom with 20 four year olds. The program was called a Play Program. The children spent a long period of time choosing their activities in a room full of “stuff “ that children love. The ways that the children interacted with this “stuff” and each other changed as they grew and developed through the year.

The teacher’s job was to keep track of this development, gently guide each child to the next step, and offer new things. Each child was on his/her own path of development and it was my honor as that teacher to observe this occurring.

The children were happy, adventurous and totally comfortable with their sense of self.  They instinctively knew what they wanted to do and were open to try the next step. It felt so healthy!

One section of the room was a huge art table. It held a great array of supplies for exploration and creation: paper, crayons, pencils, sparkles, scissors, stickers, paper rolls, yarn, etc., what many would consider junk. The children came up with all sorts of pictures and creations. It was amazing.

At the end of one very busy day, I was giving back the work done that had deposited in the “Take Home” box. At the bottom was a large piece of paper with a beautiful design made at the art table. On top of it was a blue sweater that was stuck to the paper. As I took the paper out and gently began to lift the sweater off, a voice rang out.

“Stop!” it said. “You are ruining my picture!” Before I knew it, Jimmy took the paper, sweater and all, from my hands. He gently tapped the sweater back into place and held up the paper for me. “See?” he said. “Isn’t it great?”

And indeed it was, sweater and all. No one but Jimmy knew what it was, but it did not matter. He had a great time making it and it indeed was beautiful. Even better was his expression and his demeanor. He was happy, proud and totally comfortable with himself and what he had done.

It was a wonderful feeling to see a child so comfortable with his sense of self and what it had produced. I remember that moment often. I remembered it, accepted and enjoyed many moments like it as my own children grew.

Now for a healthy me…I accept and enjoy such moments for myself, but sharing takes a lot more effort and courage…effort to step out of my comfort zone and courage to say, “Don’t ruin my picture!”

©Linda Zeppa

For more about our guest blogger, Linda Zeppa, a teacher and Creative Writing Mentor visit

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