Ah, field trips!
Those wonderful carefree days of no actual school work. Parents often think of those days as “days off” for teachers.
To which teachers respond, “Bwahahahahahahaha!”
No kidding. We actually chortle.
I woke up this morning at 5:45, showered, drank my cup of coffee and headed out the door. I usually have at least two cups of said coffee, but knowing that I would be trapped on a bus for an hour and a quarter made me forgo my second fortifying beverage.
Also, I know how cranky I can get with all that caffeine coursing through my veins. So I skipped it. Sadly. And with a few bad words. I skipped it.
But I got out the door in plenty of time, and headed off to school. I had told the class to be in the room by 8:00 AM at the latest, assuring them that I would be at my desk by 7:30, and could handle anything that came up. As I got on the road and glanced at my watch, I was buoyed by the realization that I would be at school in PLENTY of time. No worries!
Until the traffic on the highway came to a grinding halt. And I sat for ten full minutes without moving a foot.
Gah! Time was ticking by. What should I do? I booted up my GPS app, and saw that it would take me 40 minutes to get to my classroom. Gulp! 40 minutes would put me at TEN PAST eight! The bus had to leave at 8:15!!! I frantically texted my ever serene and uber organized colleague, Amy Jo, and asked her to get my classroom ready for the kids.
I came careening into the parking lot at 8, and entered my classroom at 8:02. I greeted the kids, handed out medications to the chaperones, filled out the “before school” attendance sheet, and got ready to head for the bathroom.
And all the lights went out. Bam.
We were in the dark.
I turned on my phone, used the facilities, and got everyone lined up and ready to go.
Onto the busses we went, chaperones, incredibly excited kids and me. Phew! I gave orders (“No standing up! No screaming! No eating on the bus).
And I settled back to relax.
Almost immediately, I had two little girls in the seats across from me firing questions my way. Had I been to Sturbridge Village before? What would we see? Would there be animals? What kind? When was I last there? Did I always know that I wanted to be a teacher? How old was I , anyway? If I could have any animal on earth as a pet, what would it be? Did they have bees in the 1800’s?
I did my best to answer, and I chatted with the kids.
Its what teachers do. We talk to kids. We answer the questions that they ask.
After about 40 minutes, one of the chaperones turned to me. She is the young mother of one of my most intriguing kids. “I hope you don’t mind, ” she said, “But I was listening to everything that you said. Wow! I think I love you! No wonder my daughter loves you so much!”
I was completely taken aback. What? My talk with the kids impressed her that much? But that’s how people should always talk to kids, I thought.
I was delighted, and grateful. But truly surprised.
I thanked her, and sat back to think.
The rest of the day was filled with rain, and laughter, and a hundred kids from 20 schools rushing around and shouting questions as only kids can do. We flew from the blacksmith to the tinsmith to the cooper to the printer. We petted the baby cows and the fluffy little lambs. Because we are fifth graders, we laughed and commented as the bulls peed and the lambs nursed.
We manned the pumps, threw rocks in the pond, raced across the covered bridge.
We got back on the bus and we headed back to school.
And now I am at home, feet up on the coffee table, glass of wine in hand. My mind is filled with the images of the day: my sensitive and anxious boy clinging to my side, asking me a thousand questions about the safety of the bridge and the sanitation in the animal pens; my social and smiling boy, asking his friends to back up and make room for younger kids who had come into the potter’s shed; my smart, sassy, learning disabled girl, pausing to think about the oxen, then turning to me with a smile as the meaning of “neutered” made its way into her consciousness.
I love my job.
I love those kids.
I love the caring and warmth and support of these loving parents.
I wish that I could teach the way I want to teach. I wish that my connection to the kids would be evidence enough of my success as a teacher.