Two little things happened today that reminded me yet again why I love teaching young children.
I was herding my unruly first graders down the stairs to get their bus, trying to zip up backpacks and remind them about homework and wondering why I even bother shouting “don’t run!”, when Allie, the school secretary, came towards me leading a little girl in an unfamiliar school uniform by the hand. I did a double take and then found myself emitting an uncharacteristic girly scream. It was Jennifer – my favourite child from kindergarten, who I taught for two years and then broke my heart saying goodbye to when she graduated in February.
Jennifer is the girl who made me a snowflake when I was sick, and wrote me a poem in a Valentine’s card. She was my little star, and so friendly, hardworking, kind-hearted and thoughtful that I often lost sight of the fact that she was only 6 years old. Saying goodbye to her was extremely sad for me.
“What are you doing here?!” I squealed, forgetting all about my howling first graders and rushing over to her. She didn’t answer. Instead, she broke away from the secretary and ran towards me, jumping up into my arms for a bear hug. She wouldn’t let go. I looked at Allie over her shoulder, and she laughed. “She has been asking her mother every day if she can come see you. She finally gave in and dropped her off here while she goes to pick up her other child from school.”
Well, that was the nicest thing I’d heard in a long time. We sat in the entrance hall surrounded by the usual yelling chaos that is the kindergarteners going home and the elementary students arriving, and Jennifer climbed on to my lap and held my hand tightly as she told me all about her new school and teachers and subjects. Her mother arrived to pick her up and looked apologetically at me, as if she had somehow inconvenienced me and not in fact made my day. What a lovely little surprise!
I went back upstairs to prepare for my next class, and greeted my second group of seven-year-olds, who were playing with some kind of elaborate Lego robot on the floor. I stepped over them and groaned as the fan swooshed a wave of humid air around me. “How is it this hot already, at the start of May?” I grumbled crossly to myself, reaching for the air con remote and then collapsing at my desk with a bottle of water.
One of the boys suddenly popped his head up over my desk like a little jack-in-the-box. “Well, teacher,” he began very seriously, “you know the Earth?”. I looked suspiciously at him, hoping he wasn’t about to start telling me it was really called Korea. “I do know the Earth, yes,” I replied warily. He nodded, satisfied. “Around the Earth there is a… a… cover?” He made some gestures with his hands, looking expectantly at me for the vocabulary he didn’t know. “What is this? Earth, then sky, then…?”. I gazed at him, mildly surprised. “Are you talking about the ozone layer?”. He nodded confidently. “Yes, yes. Ozone layer. Ozone layer has a hole. The sun is spilling in the hole and getting on to the Earth. That is why it is hot so early. April and May, it is spring, but it is hot. Ozone layer is broken. The Earth is getting warmer.”
He looked intently at me to check that I now understood global warming, and for a moment I could only nod speechlessly. “Um… thank you, Andy. Thanks for explaining that.”
“No problem, teacher!” says he, going back to play with his Lego on the floor. I sat back and watched him playing like any other 7-year-old, my mind completely blown.
Days like today make it all worthwhile.
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