*Last night, after sending the kids to get their pajamas on, Paul and I settled down on the couch with our laptops to play a little World of Warcraft together. Before long, out comes Caleb in his footie jammies, asking, “Can I sit with you guys?” I patted the sofa next to me. “Of course, kiddo,” I said. Only then did I see that he was holding something in his hands. “I have a computer of my own, see?” he exclaimed proudly. He had taken a piece of orange construction paper, folded it in half, and drawn a keyboard and screen on it. He sat back against the couch and set his “laptop” up on his knees to play, just like Mommy and Daddy. How cute is that?
*Once, when I was a kindergartner in Michigan, I spent the entire recess getting dressed in my snowsuit and boots. The teacher was going down the line zipping zippers and fastening gloves and tightening boot laces before sending each student to the playground, and I happened to be last in line that day. Just as I was walking to the door to go outside, the bell rang and all the other kids came streaming back into the building, faces red with cold and laughing at their sledding adventures. I burst into tears from the disappointment.
I hadn’t thought about that memory in a long time, until this year, when we came back to school from Christmas break with three feet of snow still on the ground. Suddenly, the simple act of sending my students out to recess took on gargantuan complications, and it took me a day or two to realize that I had to make some adjustments in the procedure. Now, I schedule ten minutes of class time before recess for getting into snowpants and hats and scarves and gloves and boots, and another ten minutes after for getting out of them. (Yes, that’s twenty minutes of preparation for a fifteen minute recess, but such is life in North Idaho.) Another lesson came from the K4 teacher in the room next to mine, who has been doing this for winters without number. She doesn’t spend all that time on zippers and laces and stuffing tiny feet into puffy snowsuits like so many nylon-encased sausages. Instead, she has a hands-off policy: she’ll talk a child through the process (“sit down and pull your snowpants on like you’re getting into a sleeping bag”, etc.) but she won’t do it for them. As a result, her students get ready to go out all by themselves, and much more quickly than if they had to wait for her to get around to help everyone. I started doing things the same way in my classroom this week, and it has helped immensely.
*Katie will be participating in the area-wide private school spelling bee next Thursday. Knowing my proud history of spelling bee glory, her teacher has kindly invited me to come along and bear witness to the victories and defeats of the next generation of spelling wunderkind. Kathy has agreed to take my class for a couple of hours in the morning, and I am looking forward to being there with Katie, either to share in her moment of triumph or to comfort her in her disappointment, as my mother comforted me. Spell on, sweet girl!
*Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday. What a joy it was to explain to my class why we celebrate the birthday of this remarkable man and the impact he had on American society! His dedication to Christ’s teachings of love and equality burned through our national consciousness like a wildfire. While we still have work to do to realize his vision of an America where men “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”, he made some of the first mighty strides toward that goal, and planted that dream deep in the soil of our country’s soul. The reverend knew, as many of us today do not, that the first rule of positive change is love. We can’t get anywhere we want to go without it.