"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Thursday, October 16, 2008


In over twenty years as an elementary school teacher, I've observed many patterns that occur from one year to the next. The years themselves unfold in a predictable rhythm that is actually taught to new teachers so that they don't freak out when in late fall all of their September energy and idealism seem to have vanished into thin air.

Until this year I've never had a number pattern surface. They may have been there, but they were quiet and I wasn't really looking. I wasn't looking for this one either. But pattern I have, and it's an amazing one. 

I have twenty-four students (8 x 3). I'm the only third grade teacher of the four at my school with this number.

Five of my students were born on the eighth of a month.

Eight of us share a birthday with one other person. My birthday is the same as one boy in the class. I have a set of twins. Two other pairs also share birthdays.

Kids are eight when they start third grade.

I'm fifty-six (8 x 7) - for a few more weeks anyway.

It's 2008.

It was all those kids born on the eighth of the month that got my attention first. And then the shared birthdays. After that I started looking for other eights.

I've spent some time online looking for the symbolism of  eight. The amount of information available is overwhelming, and can be conflicting depending on which cultural or religious site I'm reading.

Here's the meaning that I like best: Starting afresh on a higher level or octave.

I don't know that it really matters. The comfort I take from the clear evidence of eights in my life right now is the validation that this year is no accident. This year that I had anticipated being somewhere else. This year that I've been longing to be somewhere else. This year that it's become  brilliantly clear I'm right where I need to be.

Yesterday in a conversation with one of my moms I said for the first time, "I think this class is going to make my top three all-time favorite list." The words and the truth of them surprised me. 

This group of kids is the happiest, huggiest, funniest I've ever taught. I belly laugh nearly every day. When it's time for them to go out for recess, several will come up to me and moan dramatically exclaiming that it will be such a long time before we see each other again while draping themselves all over me. In the mornings before I let them in, they stand at the windows, tap tap tapping away until I look up so they can smile and wave and show me the treasures in their warm little hands.

They're bringing me rocks. Every day. I have little piles all over the room. I ooh and aah and admire all of them. Driveway rocks. Playground rocks. Found on the way to school rocks. In truth I love rocks in some deep, primal, passionate way. I haven't told my kids that, but they seem to know anyway.

They seem to know a me that I've been trying to bring to the surface for a very long time now. And of course their knowing is helping me to clear away the last of the rubble to reveal what shines beneath.

I think the eights were there just to get me to pay attention to the gifts right under my nose. They're a reminder that this year of waiting is not that at all. It is its very own powerful gift of time and healing and a magical class of twenty-four eight-year-olds.

Photo from Flickr


Jerri said...

Beautiful piece, Deb. Always.

But can we talk about eights? Have you read a novel called, "The Eight" by Katherine Neville? It's from a genre not usually my cup of tea, but it was given to me by a trusted counselor. Thank God.

Much of the plot is tied to the magic of the number 8. It speaks of Fibonacci numbers and music and all manner of wondrous things. I literally read at the computer so I could google as I went.

Follow the 8s, Deb. Learn as much as you can from them. I have a hunch they'll lead incredible places.

Deb Shucka said...

So very cool! Thank you, Jerri, for once again being my muse and mentor and wise woman. I read "The Eight" years ago. Loved it. Kept it. I just went upstairs and walked right to it, tucked in among the hundreds of other books I've loved and kept, even though I haven't seen or thought about it in ages. It will be the next thing I read.

kario said...

Goosebumps. This is absolutely where you needed to be this year. So glad you're present with it.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Nice writing and photos. Your students are lucky to have such an interesting teacher.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"And of course their knowing is helping me to clear away the last of the rubble to reveal what shines beneath."

Rubble is a rock word you know - no accidents.

I'm with Kario - this gave me goosebumps. LOVE that you are getting in one belly laugh per day - what's better medicine than that????

Mark Lyons said...

What joy and surprises are hidden for us when we least expect it. I am so happy that you have found such pleasure in this school year that you were dreading so much. I truly believe that you are meant to be in that classroom for a reason...one that is much bigger than any of us. Love your writing...it's the best.



Deb Cushman said...

And it feels like eight months since I've been here. I knew I was behind, but didn't realize that I had missed 4 of your wonderful posts (1/2 of 8). How did I survive without your magical words lifting me up and taking me to a new beautiful place? Thank you for taking me along with you on the ride!

contemporary themes said...

Those kiddos are so damn lucky to have you!

Once again, you stun me with your writing!