Sunday, September 1, 2013
Last week on Tuesday I welcomed twenty-three fledglings of the human variety into my room and my heart. Then on Thursday by the end of the day, seventy-eight more had landed in my classroom as awkwardly and exuberantly as any baby bird just out of the nest. We're doing rotations this year, which means I'm teaching writing and only writing to the entire fifth grade.
One hundred or so ten-year-olds. Not quite the people they came here to be. Still holding the roundness and fluff of babyhood, but with wings that work. Like mother juncoes knowing their fledglings need help finding food, the adults in these kids' lives still provide varying degrees of support as they move out into the world. Like beings everywhere with a newly discovered ability to fly, the kids flap and flutter with varying degrees of effectiveness.
When I watch a baby junco peck around in the grass or hit the jackpot with a fuschia berry, all the wonders of childhood are present in those new discoveries. And everything that he will ever be is present in that tiny body.
That's the thing I love the most about being a teacher. The deepest privilege of my profession. Each child comes to me only partially formed, and I get to see all of the potential of what they might be. Just as I know that adult juncoes are beautifully, crisply uniform with gray-black heads, buff underparts and darker backs, I see in each child the possibility of a best, pure, completely expressed person.
So many already have obstacles that threaten to ground them before they've even cleared the trees, let alone finding the whole width of the sky. Labels and life circumstances that have the potential to prevent the full expression of their being: ADHD, ODD, BD, IEP, 504; parents in jail, siblings lost to suicide, poverty, severe allergies, days that start with shame and beatings and no clean clothes to wear.
Before I ever meet the kids I see paperwork, hear stories, occasionally see pictures. None of those things come close to matching the people I meet. And while it's helpful to have the other information, to know what might be hindering flight so I can work around those obstacles, what matters more to me is the vision I get of who that child could be.
I know from my own life that childhood circumstance isn't the final word on how much potential can be fulfilled. And so I believe in the possibility of complete dream fulfillment for each of those not-quite-formed people who will be writing with me this year. Even knowing that not all of them will soar into the world on strong wings, for this one year I can give them a space where all things are possible and offer tools they can use to build lives where they have access to the whole wide sky.