I’m standing on the tarmac in bright sunshine and curiously noticing that Ed, Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl are off in the distance. Ed is yelling at me to RUN. I look up, and tumbling end over end out of the sky is an airplane. I notice that it is blue and orange (am I at Midway? Is this Southwest?) No matter, really, since I am immobilized. All I can do is watch as the plane crashes down, Ed shouting, while I turn to stone, as if my feet are embedded in concrete. The plane tumbles end over end on the ground as it hurtles toward me. The speed of the plane is that of a shooting star, and I am transfixed. Ed’s hopeless shouts of RUN are the last thing I hear. I am awakened from the dream.
Winter break is one of the rejuvenating respites that teachers enjoy, in place of the lucrative reward that accompanies other professions. The week returning from Winter break has been a challenging one – as witnessed by my dream of immobility in the face of a crashing airplane (I wonder who, or what, was on the plane). It has been so challenging that I haven’t posted, or even written anything substantive, since January 2. Getting children, my own and my students, back into a habit of routines requires patience and creativity, and both of those things are not to be had in abundance in early January.
So what saved me from the crash? Nursery school, it seems.
Because Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man are in nursery school only a few classrooms down from my own 7th grade class, I have the joy of seeing them everyday. Their nursery teachers are welcoming and open and allow me to come to the class for lunch, reading time and play time on a regular basis. I can’t spend long hours in the class since I have my own students to teach, but this week, I spent a full hour in reading time, free time and lunch time on Tuesday. I am there so frequently that the nursery students are calling me by my first name now. Instead of calling me, “Gorilla Girl’s mommy” and despite my husband’s warnings, I am going to let them continue to call me “Peggy” at least until they arrive in 7th grade.
While I was visiting on Tuesday, my former student came looking for her mom, Gorilla Girl’s and Monkey Man’s assistant teacher. SH walked in as I was walking out and gave her mom a huge hug — just as Gorilla Girl was insisting upon “lots” of hugs and kisses before I left. I taught SH when she was in 7th grade and she is now a 9th grader. She is also an adopted child, so we share common ground and a meaningful connection. The pure joy with which SH embraced her mom was mirrored by Gorilla Girl’s exuberance in embracing me. This coincidental parallel — former student with mom who is teacher to my children — all of us in mother/daughter embraces and all of us adopted families — reminded me of the relationships that are created over time in institutions. Certainly imparting content is one of the most important jobs of a teacher. But creating relationships that sustain questioning, learning, creativity, and meaningful discussion is also important. The connection that is forged in a classroom can have lasting importance if you slow down to let it happen.
I survived the week – and the plane crash, maybe due to the calm moments of connection. Ed should have shouted, not RUN, but rather SLOW DOWN.