This week marks my last at St. Charles School. I started there in August of 2011. When I began, I was coming into a difficult situation. The June previous, the assistant principal died unexpectedly.
I knew Helen. I knew her as a literacy guru: the former language arts consultant in our district. When I entered my office for the first time – Helen’s office – I found many of her books left by her family. Books that had been flagged, written in and ear-marked. Books she had used to ground her practice, guide her staff and spark discussion.
The last few days as I started to pack up my belongings, I flipped through Helen’s books once again. I have referenced them many times over the years. I discovered Helen’s thoughts as I read the notes she left behind. Following in her footsteps, I was both honoured and intimidated. How could I possibly live up to her legacy?
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” Helen, I hope I planted a few seeds and did you proud.
Last week I watched our grade ones perform a short musical for their parents. There’s really nothing more endearing than a performance by kids of this age. We’ve all seen it … There are those who don’t hesitate to fill in for someone who may have forgotten his line. There are those that mouth the words with no sound attached. There are those who turn their backs to the audience and continue to perform. There are also those who ham it up and delight in the laughter of the audience.
As I was watching, I wished there were thought bubbles above their heads. Wouldn’t it be amusing to know what they are thinking as they perform? Not that I think visible thought bubbles would be appropriate in every situation. In fact, in most circumstances – with our family and coworkers, or heaven forbid, for politicians – it would be both dangerous and disastrous. There’s a reason we don’t voice all of our thoughts. But the honesty and innocence of kids would be entertaining, especially in this situation!
It’s easy to complain about how tired we are and how hot our classrooms have become. It’s easy to complain about the never-ending-to-do list and the amount of work we spend writing report cards.
Yet this past week was a reminder about how fortunate we are to be going about our days as normal. The public school next door to our school had a tough week. On Monday, one of their grade six students died after being in a house fire the day before. The teachers shared the news with their classes. There were grief counsellors in the building all week. Students were encouraged to come to school to maintain a sense of normality. And as you can imagine, those teachers were doing their best to keep it together for their students.
I pray that all of the individuals connected to this tragedy have an opportunity to grieve, but also to celebrate the life of this young girl and to make some kind of meaning from the example of her life.
There are fourteen days left in the school year. As busy as I know I will be, I will not complain. I am going to enjoy these last days of school with our students. I am going to be thankful to have the time with each and every one of them. And I’m not going to take any of it for granted.
On Friday I stood near the front entrance of the school greeting a few straggling students coming in after the bell. As one student came into the building, I noticed something in her arms. As I was thinking, “that looks like a chicken … it looks like a real chicken …” it moved and I realized that it was a real chicken. I went up to the student and asked, “Do your parents know you brought a chicken to school?” She said “yes” with some hesitation. When I asked why she brought a chicken to school, she replied, “I accidentally put it in my backpack.” Hmmph. I hate it when that happens.
As she went down the hall towards her classroom – cradling the chicken in her arms – her mom came rushing into the school. “Did you see what my daughter brought to school? A chicken. She brought a chicken to school.” Attempting to stifle my laughter I replied, “She said you knew about the chicken.” “Ten steps away from the school I knew! She had it zipped up in her backpack! I can’t believe she brought a chicken to school.”
To the teacher’s relief, the chicken didn’t stay at school; it did visit for a few short minutes. Apparently they have three chickens at home. Yes, we do live in the city. And yes, I know it sounds like I’ve made this up, but it’s true. I have witnesses to prove it.