It was a school day that began as every other day in the classroom. They were third graders who were giddily anticipating the upcoming weekend and curiously imagining what the day’s activities would be.
And then I threw them a series of educational curves, after which they didn’t want the day to end. First, I called them humans instead of boys and girls. It looked like this: Okay, humans. Let’s stop generating sounds from our mouths. When one girl objected to being called a human, I replied, “Okay, mammal. Is that better?”
Then I prohibited them from having fun, threatening to summon the third-grade police if I observed violators. We read aloud, practiced being mannequins, shared a poem about grannies and disclosed firsthand experiences with cancer. They were animated, engaged, funny, affectionate and filled with joy.
Perhaps it was less magical than it might have been with other kids. Or maybe all of the kids (or humans or mammals) in my path that day would have been animated or enthusiastic.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter at all. My eight hours of joy were the fortunate algorithm of one dedicated educator and twenty-three beautiful brains, hearts and inquisitive spirits. With this equation for embracing those personalities, I couldn’t resist.
Our memories allow us to retain the images of smiling, sweet faces while they blur the belligerent child who slaps someone’s arm out of fear or confusion. If I ever wonder why I sit in the teacher’s chair and facilitate awakenings, I remember these images where my presence made the difference. Leaving the classroom, I could only compare my sense of wonder to that of a four-year-old entering an amusement park for the first time. Shalom.