“Hey, look! It’s clouds!”
My favorite thing about teaching children is instilling the joy of life into their little hearts. They’ve seen clouds a thousand times (well, okay, maybe hundreds…they’re only six–!). But now that we’ve boiled water into vapor, and stretched cotton balls into “cirrus” and “cumulus” representations, the act of spotting a real cloud against a vivid blue sky is a magnificent find!
Or there’s the shadow experience. Each child held a miniature flashlight (I let them insert batteries into the flashlight by themselves; they were overjoyed!). We shined those lights into transparent, translucent, and then opaque materials. We reflected them off tiny mirrors. We beamed them up onto the ceiling with some jazzy background music. A few hours later, when we stepped outside into line formation, the children noted with exuberance that their shadows matched the actual shape of their bodies. “My shadow, my shadow! I look like a baby!” They all burst into some sort of spontaneous wiggle-dance that came with a fair amount of noise. I waved self-consciously at the curious teachers walking by. I loved this, but I hated it, too. “Okay, everyone, back together now! Let’s everyone point to the light source!” Their little fingers began pointing overhead, which got the more errant kids’ attention. Soon we were cohesive once more. “We’ll check your shadows again at the end of our school day. Let’s see what happens when our light source moves around!”
My love for life–and for children–has gotten me into trouble. I was once on playground duty after a huge rainstorm. The air was chilly and the skies were gray; we still had around 25 minutes to entertain ourselves before school began. About a third of the grassy “runaround” area was covered in a giant puddle, and dozens of older would-be soccer players were standing around, bundled in jackets and hoods, doing absolutely nothing. We can’t have that now, can we? There’s always something we can find to learn about! So I went over and picked up a flat stone, and told those kids, “Watch this!” I skipped that stone across the top of our new pond; it bounced 3 times before sinking to the bottom. “AWESOME!” they hollered. Instantaneous success! Immediately, re-energized boys and girls went hunting for flat rocks to practice their new skills. I oohed and aahed right along with ’em. (Truthfully, most stones plunked straight down into the puddle. But the splashes were terrific!) Suddenly, and very near to my ear, a whistle blew sharply. “Get away from there! Get away! You know you’re not supposed to be throwing rocks!” Startled, I turned to the Angry Man. “They’re not throwing rocks.” I explained, “They’re learning how to–” “You!!!” He pointed at me. “You started this?!” He swooshed his arm around a few times, and we all meekly backed away. But that wasn’t the worst part! The worst part was that, because of the whistle-blowing, seven hundred other students from around the playground were now lined up. They were obediently awaiting their teachers, who wouldn’t arrive for another 12 minutes. No one was happy with me that day.
Kids are fun. So is living! I love seeing the freshness of life through their eyes. I promise, I’m adulting the best I can. Meanwhile, I’ll teach…