It’s a busy week of end-of-year school events. Tim’s concert was Monday; Holly’s class play was yesterday.
Everything about my kids’ classrooms, year after year, reminds me of how nurtured they are at our local public school. The bulletin board displays; the carefully organized schedules the teachers post; the classroom libraries; the art supplies; the accessibility the students have to all of it. And I just can’t believe my children are so lucky, so well cared for and so much cared about. I know how much I love and care about them; I’m their mother. But it’s so much more than I expect from a school system, and yet the message is irrefutable whenever I’m on campus: this is a place where we help children learn and develop.
It goes without saying that you really can’t watch a second grade play without a touch of weepiness. The kids are just so genuinely proud of themselves, and the play itself represented such a rich and multi-faceted learning module: they studied folk tales, they learned songs, they designed sets and costumes, they practiced one of the songs in sign language. It’s not just a performance; it’s a display of cross-curricular education. Putting on a play requires other skills when you’re in second grade too. You learn to listen carefully as you wait for your cues. You practice working together with your classmates to create something that involves everyone. I think it was even a little workout for their organizational skills, as they learned to keep track of all the different pieces of their costumes and store them properly after each performance during the week-long series of shows.
Every school year ends with some kind of classroom event, and every year it’s hard for me to face the fact that another school year is over. I always feel like the kids have learned and developed so much in each respective class; I’m reluctant to give up the rapport they’ve developed with their teacher and classmates, even knowing that it will all start again in another three months.
Sitting on a diminutive molded plastic seat watching the kids dressed as rainforest creatures and acting out a folk tale, I felt all of these things: the nostalgia, the sentimentality, the admiration for all they’d learned, the bittersweetness of saying goodbye to another great school year. And I also felt the unfairness of it, the injustice that my children and their classmates have so much that can’t possibly be distributed where it is most needed. While Holly and her peers prance their way through the rainforest of their classroom, children in Haiti are still living in mud-drenched tents. School is becoming a distant memory for them; now they don’t have homes, they don’t have schools, many of them don’t even have parents. And here we are with the most wonderful second grade teacher and campus and resources a family could ever want. It’s so hard to face the fact that most children have so much less.
Holly knows this only very vaguely, I think. She was proud of her class’s performance of their rainforest folk tale, and she was excited that she got to take her monkey costume home at the end. She doesn’t understand what a rare gift all of this is: a comfortable well-furnished school, a caring and expert teacher. Even parents to fill up the seats in the audience. Someday she’ll know; she’ll see it from an adult perspective. Someday maybe she’ll work to lessen the injustice just a little bit. For now, she’s happy that I took a video of the performance for Rick to see. And for now, that will have to be enough.