Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Waiting For The Future

Our community spent Friday preparing for our move to the center of the universe and Saturday making the first phase of it happen. I'm sure there's a post about all that coming up here soon, but I don't want to spend any more time than I have to on that right now because we still have a week of class at the "old school" and I want to concentrate as much as possible on that.

So when I say we moved on Saturday, I mean that we stripped the classroom down to its bare essentials, clearing away much of the heavy stuff, as well as laying bare most of the shelves.

We left behind some essentials like paint, paper and easels, a few puzzles, and a handful of books.

We worked as hard as we've ever worked, loading, then unloading the two moving trucks we'd rented, yo-yoing them between the two sites, and when we shut the doors on the "old school" on Saturday evening, it was clear to all of us that there was still quite a bit of work to do to be ready for children to return for their final week.

No one was game for working on Sunday, and besides, we're in a church building and I think it would be quite rude to be banging around downstairs while they're trying to have services and enjoy fellowship, so we decided that we would take a field trip up to the Woodland Park playground on Monday, leaving Teacher Tom behind to shove things around, put away box cutters, sweep up stray nails, and generally make things suitable for four more days of temporary habitation.

I was particularly worried about the state of the outdoor classroom where the remains of the beach hut lay in a heap along with a bunch of other garbage waiting for a trip to the dump, so I got there at 7 a.m. and got to work. By the time the kids started arriving to set out together on their excursion, I had the place in pretty good shape -- good enough that I felt it was safe for the kids to come on inside to check things out.

There has been a lot of talk among us adults, as there should be, about how the move was impacting the children emotionally. A few have apparently expressed reluctance to move, not at all happy with the prospects of change. Several have visited the new site at the Fremont Baptist Church with their parents during one of the many tours we've taken over the course of the last month and seem thrilled. A few even dropped by during the move itself and stood back as we wrangled furniture out onto the sidewalk for loading.

And although we've been discussing the impending move with the kids for the last couple weeks, I think Monday brought the reality home for all of them. Unlike the younger Pre-3 class who would see the space the following day and react almost not at all, the 3-5 kids, almost to a child, stopped short in the doorway. I'll never forget Violet standing there with her mouth hanging open, wordlessly surveying what she saw, almost like a caricature of a person stunned into silence. We played the game of trying to figure out what was different, what was missing. We'd planned for the kids to gather outdoors, then set out together almost right away, but instead we milled around inside where the changes were most profound. I even showed them my main storage room, which had only a few days before been stocked from floor to ceiling with cool looking stuff, and where they had previously been forbidden entry.

I chattered all the while about how we were all going to a new school next year, some of us to brand new schools with brand new friends, and some of us just to a new building with the same friends. The end of the school year is always a bit hard to talk about, a bit uncertain, full of the unknown, forcing adults into vague generalities when talking to the whole group. I didn't make any special effort to pump them up about the next few months, but rather tried to discuss it as matter-of-factly as possible, although I suspect my enthusiasm came through more than I know.

Then it was off to the playground, leaving Teacher Tom behind, promising to catch up with them in about an hour. I didn't really need to stay for that hour, frankly, but that's what we'd planned, that's for what we'd prepared the children, and I didn't want to throw them any more curve balls just then. It's not that there weren't things to do, however, so I spent 40 minutes productively, then headed over.

Play was in full swing and I joined in, enjoying the feel of all that space for running and hiding. Our old courtyard had never felt so small to me as it did on Monday, never so limiting. We'd made the best of it, but playing here with the kids gave me a sense of how things are going to change this summer when we suddenly have so much more outdoor space in which to spread out.

At some point, one of the children told me, "Connor found a dead bird." Our discussions of dead butterflies still relatively fresh, I followed the children to where a bird carcass lay in the grass.

"Maybe it's a baby bird that didn't make it."

"I think it got run over by a car."

"Another bird tried to eat it . . . I know, an eagle!"

As we should, adults stood nearby warning them not to touch it. Birds can carry disease. There was even some concern about getting too close, but how can you not move in for a closer look?

This was our school right here, with no walls, in a place owned by everyone, talking matter-of-factly about the reality before us. Old school or new school, the important thing is that we're together. That's what makes it school. 

"Its feathers are off."

"Why can't we touch it?"

"I see it's bones."

There are so many things in life to worry about because we really can't know anything until it is present. That's the nature of "the future." We predict, we anticipate, we worry. There are no concerns or questions that are off limits. And it comes whether we're ready or not. Children are the masters of being present and at least as we stood there ringing the dead bird there were no particular emotions evident as we curiously engaged with the thing before us, looking death calmly in the eye. Certainly we can learn to do the same about the mere act of moving.

We returned to the school at the end of our day for story time on the familiar blue rug. Although the shelves were empty, their yellow fabric covers remained, the artwork remained. The goal was to retain the "integrity" of the our circle time area for the final week, even if everything else existed in a state of flux. We sat together as we always do, together with our friends in what is left of our old familiar place, living in the present, while matter-of-factly waiting for the future.

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Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to more posts about this year's play. How are practices going?

Noah said...

I am taking these words directly into my heart.

Debbie said...

A foot in each world.
Here and there.
Coming and going.
Life and death.

There ya have it.
The entire preschool curriculum.