Twilight over Tioga Lake

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The End of Years

It's been a while. The reason: I had to get through the End of the Year.

True, it is not technically the end of the year. But the school year just ended, and as fellow teachers and our students can attest, that is the true end of the year.

It is always an emotional ride, the end of years. At least for me. Traditionally, I am relieved not to have to deal with certain difficult situations anymore. But I feel that there is much unfinished business. I am exhilarated to have some free time, to be able to sleep past 7. But I soon become restless with the easier schedule. As much as I love the kids, we all need to take a break and refocus.
Yet I will really miss the children and some families that I became close with. Back in February and March, time seemed to stall. I felt mired in problems at work, was unhappy in my own life. Spring skipped by. And suddenly, the year was over.

Well, now what?

Time to get back to writing, for one thing. Time to walk the dog on the beach, go down water slides, drink Bloody Marys with bacon as a swizzle stick, find hidden graveyards, and all the other random things I now have more time to enjoy.

I don't write a whole lot about work--it's kind of hard when one is so entrenched in it. But here is one poem I wrote about an actual experience I had at the preschool I work at. I dedicate it to teachers and students of all ages. Happy summer. You deserve it.

The Snail Playground

Room 310 has hermaphrodites for pets.

Some preschool classes have fish or hamsters, we have snails and slugs. And why not? The children are fascinated by these slimers who are always in motion.

We hold them every day, touch everywhere, probe gently. These are the eyes, these are the feelers, this is where the slime comes out that helps it move.

We research our new companions, and learn that snail eggs can come out of anywhere on their bodies. One day, Snaily produced a white opaque ball from his head to much applause.

The children do not judge a life like we often do, and deem the gastropods worthy of a playground.

Blue prints are made, plans are laid--this takes months. Yes, 5 year olds can handle hammers and nails--these new humans are deserving of our ultimate respect.

Finally, a three dimensional miniature community emerges. The creatures are introduced immediately, and the children watch with wide eyed concern and hope.

“Will Slimey use the pool? Will Cutie climb the ladder?”

Their innocence juices my heart, killing me and sustaining me at once.

Parents smile uncomfortably at our curriculum that centers around the leisure activities of gastropods. I explain:

“But the children are learning science and caring for living things and working together and this and that…”

Still sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with us.

I find myself sucked into the children’s world, and care for our little pets so much. I crave holding them, feeling the slime trail that won’t wash off, the gnawing of their mouths like a baby’s fingernail on your skin, hoping in vain that Snaily who lost his shell will live…what is wrong with me?

One day a tragedy--tiny Cutie disappears. Some surmise giant banana slug Slimey turned cannibal. We all mourn together. The children reminisce about the good times.

Weeks later, Alex approaches me in an agitated state. Alex had never said much until his love for the snails gave him a voice.

“I found Cutie, I found Cutie!” We all run over. Alex’s eyes point towards his open palm.

“Look, I’m holding him right here in my hand!”

Unbelievably, a tiny translucent shell, its inhabitant long gone, rests in Alex’s hand.

“But where…where was he?” I breathe.

“In the plant next to the terrarium. He must have escaped.”

We are silent in sadness and wonder. Little Sophie speaks.

“If Cutie was living in the plant…and then he died in the plant…then the plant is now Cutie!” Resounding “Yeahs!” all around. The children happily water the plant, lovingly touch the leaves, place it back next to the terrarium.

I am struck mute, astounded by the leap of wisdom that has taken place. 5 year olds tackling the proverbial circle of life with greater ease than any adult I know.

I breathe and smile, no longer worrying what anyone thinks.

Now I know what is right with us.

1 comment:

-k said...

i can only imagine how much fun your classroom is.

"Their innocence juices my heart, killing me and sustaining me at once."

Love it.

Enjoy your summer. I'll be looking forward to reading your new blog entries in the coming weeks.

About Me

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San Francisco, CA
Elissa is an east coast transplant making her way through life by way of San Francisco. This amazing city provides lots of fodder for writers of all types. I find inspiration for writing through life's little and bizarre events, such as grocery shopping for dog treats, salamander hunting, and insomnia. I am a preschool teacher in "real life."