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Entries in teaching (2)


School's Out (for the Children)

It’s a fascinating thing to experience a child as a student and not as a person you have to raise. 

As a mom, I fall into the routine of treating my own children in one of three ways:

(1) like they are the most brilliant humans on the planet

(2) like Smeagol treats his precious (as in, "we forgot the taste of bread... the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name. My Preciousssses"

(3) like they’re trying to kill me

Being a child’s teacher, though, is different. It opens you up to a rich world where children are actual humans to be experienced in a multitude of contexts. Teachers see children for all the things they can be outside of belonging to an adult. There are the parts of them that their parents and their families have fashioned. There are idiosyncrasies they pick up from their favorite shows and games. Best of all, there are the parts of them that are just them.

You know that, right?

That there are parts of your child that you or society have nothing to do with?

That manifested from deep within them in a manner that they and only they chose to express?

I get to see that every single day. What we as adults have given them is beautiful, but what they do with that and produce on their own is truly magnificent. It was a good school year, and I hope the children have a blast this summer. As for myself, I'll be in Connecticut in a week playing student instead of teacher.  


Glue gun + Mardi Gras beads + Cardboard = South America.You want to teach them about polygons. They want to practice "concentric."

These children are some of the coolest people I know.




Let me see if we can both make sense of this.

I’m okay. Like, there are definitely no major life crises going on at this moment. 

Let's talk about our classroom’s pet, the adult female corn snake. I’ve never much cared for snakes, and I don’t know a lot about things I don’t care about. When you take over an elementary classroom, though, you have certain responsibilities. The absolute biggest of which is making sure the children don’t die or something. Somewhere after that is the care of the fauna and flora of the classroom.

When our corn snake stopped eating her delicious meal of dead defrosted rat in the late winter, I got concerned. Was she sick? Developing an eating disorder? On a hunger strike until her and her fellow classroom pets were liberated from bondage?

I was informed by the classroom assistant, who does care about things like this, that this is perfectly normal. Apparently, this is “shedding time.” When a snake starts to shed, it does certain things. Like not eating. Also, its skin dulls. And its eyes get cloudy, too. I was thrilled to find out that the cloudy eyes thing was normal because the solutions to feeding a corn snake with sever cataracts its bi-weekly meal (did I mention it was a dead rat? That we have to dangle the rat? And that she dislocates her jaw and swallows the whole thing?) were utterly terrifying.

I’m like a snake when it comes to emotional evolution. When I shed, I stop eating rats and my eyes cloud. Metaphorically speaking. It’s the reduction of input. The quieting of the outside so that the inside may flourish. Also, rats are just gross and I firmly believe that everyone, even a snake, deserves a break from that sort of dietary hell.

Something else our snake did this spring was lay eggs. That was super weird because, as far as I know, there are no boy snakes hanging out in our classroom. My first inclination was to shout loudly to the global snake community, “Be not afraid; behold, I bring you great tidings of joy!” circa my 1984 stint as the Angel of the Lord in Daytona Beach Baptist School’s Christmas production, whose other lesser known title was, “Angels Have Brown Hair, Too - Even if We Are Baptists.” I suspected that such a proclamation should be backed up by at least some degree of research, though, so I decided to Google “virgin corn snake eggs.” 



That was an unexpected first. 

Anyway, the egg laying was not, in fact, a messianic miracle, but a natural occurrence in which the snake is shedding the inner lining of her reproductive whatchyamacalits and what I am trying to say is that our classroom snake DearGod,AreYouThere,It’sMeMargaret-ed and went and had her first snake period which resulted in the laying of fake eggs which would, thankfully, not be hatching. I say “thankfully” because dead rats are expensive and that snake doesn’t have a job and I am not running a welfare state classroom over here.

I have a point. 

I promise.  

I imagine it took the snake a lot of work to lay those eggs. Eggs that would not hatch. I wonder if she got mad at herself, at first. “I cannot believe I went on this stupid rat fast just so I could push out ten eggs that aren’t even going to hatch.” And, then, maybe when I found her hovering over them, she was all, “Whatever, I’m just going to sit in my fake little plastic rock cave and be pissed off about having worked so hard only to find that all of this was fake.” And , then, she fell into a dreamlike state in which she envisioned one of the children leaving the lid of her cage slightly ajar so she could slither off to a place where they actually have corn, like maybe Iowa or something, and be impregnated by an actual boy snake and have free babies without the marks of bondage like those humans in Matrix III. 

I’ve sort of gotten of track here. Like Jane Goodall forgetting to number the chimps, but naming them Rudolph and Blitzen and being all unscientific. I’m trying to tell you that I thought that I thought one way  and found that I don’t actually think that way even though, really, I should and I was upset about it for a while, but now I’m fiiiiiine.

A person can write about her birthday while telling herself that she doesn’t care for the approval of others. But, then, she comes into contact with a person here or there that doesn’t just hold lukewarm feelings about her but actively hates her and finds ways turn hate into direct action despite, for real and seriously, all of one's best efforts to find common ground and, at least, come to some sort of mutual understanding that doesn't involve mental torture.

One realizes, then, that one can make proclamations about one’s self esteem and confidence all one likes while one inhabits a vacuum of love and a carefully constructed reality but when the pressure is on… one cares, and rejection doesn’t just sting… it devastates. 

That devastation then colors the world. 

One begins to see rejection where it does not exist. 

One’s self worth becomes not something which one brandishes happily, but something which one must actively fight to preserve.

One feels ashamed for being so weak as to be affected so severely by someone who they did not much hold in high esteem, anyway. And that last part about not holding them in high esteem actually makes one’s shame take on an exponential quality and begins to transform from shame into just feeling dumb which one is rarely accustomed to feeling.

And one does not prefer to do such things in public. Ever. 

One prefers to hide even from those who have never been anything but lovely to her in the solitude of her cave.

On top of her fake, pseudo-messianic eggs.

While her skin sheds and her eyes cloud.


One does come out when she is done with that.


Hark the Herald; Angels Sing...This Totally Happened