A few weeks ago we took the second graders on a field trip to the university. We went to the university's museum, ice creamery (yes, our university makes its own ice cream), and arboretum. It was a wonderful day in all ways - the weather put on her best dress, and the students were excited and interested and consequently wonderfully behaved.
I was most taken by the students' behavior at the museum, which, as we all know, could have been problematic. Luckily for us, our docent was a retired teacher who knew exactly how to talk to children. She neither talked up nor down to them. Her tone was pitch-perfect, as was the content of her discussion. I was amazed to watch all the children perfectly engaged in mind and still in body, a few even rapt.
The docent reminded me of some of my own incredible elementary teachers: Mrs. Kehoe (third grade) and Mrs. Gottlieb (sixth grade) came first to mind. They, like the docent, had the ability to be with children and show near total disregard for the temporal and experiential distinction between adult and child. As a result they taught children who performed at their best: engaged, mature, inquisitive learners.
After the docent's presentation I complimented her on her way with kids, and she thanked me before worrying aloud about the one child whose attention she felt she hadn't fully captured. We're all such perfectionists, aren't we?
That afternoon I drove home while marveling at how successful an outing we'd had. I pulled into my driveway and glanced across the street at the neighbors' house. And then experienced a powerful eureka moment the likes of which I have not felt for years. The docent's last name... She is my neighbor.
So often I complain about living in a small town. I miss the vibrancy of a large city. But on the day of our field trip, most especially after I had realized that the docent was my neighbor, I could think only of a certain magic that inheres in the connectedness of small town life.
And once our students have completed their thank-you notes to the docent, you can bet that I will be hand-delivering them to her.