An Eventful Day in First Grade

During Daily 5, students are busy at their stations while I do some assessments on sight words with individuals.  There are areas for Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, Listen to Reading, and Word Work.  It’s a language arts block that I usually spend 90-120 minutes per day on when there are no other special activities such as assemblies, plays, or library time.   It usually goes fairly smoothly, minus some students who seem to enjoy making my hair turn gray.

Suddenly there is a crash and a bang. It happens in the Read to Self area which is also the station farthest away from where I do my assessments.  I look up and quickly realize that one student accidentally pushed a basket of books onto the head of a student who was laying on the carpet, quietly reading.

Now-let me stop right here. The student who was on the carpet was quietly reading to himself-he was focused and attending to the task while not bothering other students. How do I know this? Because he is the kid that is ALWAYS off task and talking non-stop. He is the one that constantly tears apart erasers, leaves his snack everywhere except in his mouth, sticks pencils up his nose and interrupts me with ridiculous, totally off-topic statements. I did not need to look up and survey the scene before the carnage-I just knew…

So, anyway-I wait for a blood curdling scream because the kid who pushed the basket is yelling, “I DIDN’T MEAN IT!!! I DIDN’T MEAN IT!!! I’M SORRY!!! I’M SORRY!!!”

Stop-I am waiting for the blood curdling scream because the kid who pushed the books is not one to EVER apologize. He just goes about his business and is completely clueless if he hurts someone’s feelings or flat out runs a kid over. Knock a kid to the ground as he barrels through a crowd of people-he doesn’t even know there was a crowd of people never mind the little kid he bowled over. I KNOW it is not good…

I look at my normally-inattentive boy sprawled on the carpet and seeing him hold his hand on his face, I gracefully glide over to him with a box of tissues (OK-maybe I hurdled a few desks in record time but it was graceful. Really).

Blood. Lots of it, too. Just pouring out of this kid’s nose and all over his hands. No wonder my other clueless wonder is so afraid of getting in trouble for once.  With complete poise on my part, I gracefully escort Bloody Child to the nurse (Perhaps I am half-dragging him-hard to recall).   While I hold a huge wad of tissues over his face, I realize that he has not cried-not even a little. His hands are covered in blood and the once white tissue is a scarlet mass over his face. It’s a wonder he can even breathe.

I make small talk down the hall as innocent by-standards look on in horror and whisper behind our backs.

“You know, I can’t believe what a trooper you are! You are so brave! I never knew anyone braver than you. You deserve a medal!” I gush just hoping this kid lives long enough to hand him off to the nurse. I figure that once he is in her care, I’m off the hook.

I leave him in the capable hands of our sweet school nurse, take a deep shuttering breath, and head back to class with my heart beating a bit slower.

Class resumes like nothing happened and I nearly forget about my bloody friend. During the math lesson, the students are engaged in a fun hands-on activity that requires tons of oral directions. We are deep in the throng of this mind-blowing lesson when in walks my student.

I smile and continue teaching when he heads straight for me and I cringe. He’s wearing a clean shirt that is entirely too large for him. All I can think of is:  Did they call his mom? Are we being sued? Am I fired???

“Hey, buddy! What’s up?” I squeak out.

Wait for it…

“Can I have my medal now?”

And yes-he is completely serious.


The Hosta

I garden.  A lot.  My husband would say it is too much work for me but some days I think it is not enough.  I find connecting with the earth a powerful act filled with responsibility.  It gives us food, fuel for heat, and a habitat for the wildlife.  My ideas sometimes get the best of me and I tend to start things then realize it is much more time and effort than I originally anticipated.  Regardless, it is part of who I am.

We live on a 10 acre farm-something I always wanted.  In my younger days I was a horse kid.  I didn’t just love them-I needed them.  I’d like to think they needed me, too.

After years of begging my parents and proving my abilities through lessons, I was the proud owner of a beautiful Arabian filly.  She was wild, opinionated, and full of sass.  But she was also sensitive, loyal, and incredibly smart.  That horse raised me.  She and I became one being for over 18 years until her long battle with heart failure took her from me.

When we bought this farm over 12 years ago, I dreamed of having horses again.  Never had horses living with me at home-we always needed to board them elsewhere.  This new place was my chance for that.

Life has a funny way of changing your perspective.  Once we settled into our home and enrolled Lexi in the local school district, I felt something different about this property.  It was once a 10 acre farm where neat rows of corn or soy were sown in the heavy, clay soil.  Now it was a mass of weeds and bare patches that bothered me.  That’s where it all began.

Several of my flower beds are Memory Gardens-things planted in memory of a loved one lost.  There is one large round garden in memory of my mother.  Her peonies are planted there-the same ones that once belonged to her father over six decades ago.  Easy to say that one is my favorite one.

I have so many favorite plants I but at the top of the list is the hosta.  So easy to grow, comes in tons of different varieties, and a true die-hard in our harsh Michigan winters.  Instead of sending flowers to funeral homes, I send a card with a note saying something will be planted in memory of the deceased.  It’s a kind of living headstone in my eyes. I frequently plant the “Patriot’ hosta in memory of veterans who have passed.  There is even a Patriot Garden here complete with patriotic stones and flags.

Last year, our neighbor and friend, Jim, passed away.  He was a husband, father, grandfather, and fierce Marine.  I purchased a Patriot hosta to plant for him in our Patriot Garden.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put it in the ground before the winter hit.  It was left outside next to the vegetable garden upside down in its plastic pot.  It was a traditional Michigan winter-deep, harsh cold temperatures with long, dark months to drag it along.

In the spring I discovered my mistake and was appalled at myself.  Though my intentions are always good, I sometimes take on too much.  The garden, the animals (minus any horses), my husband (who struggles with the after-effects of a TBI), and my teaching job often overwhelm me.  I felt like I let Jim down.  I was convinced it was dead.  That’s when I noticed what had happened.

The leaves had started to grow from under the edge of the pot. Somehow, the roots were still viable and the sun had warmed them enough to stimulate life.  I was stunned.  How remarkable, I thought.  The petals were a bit twisted and faintly colored where the sun did not reach them yet but it was most certainly alive.

Humans tend to crumble and fall at the slightest setback.  Lose a job?  Cry the week away.  Boyfriend break-up with you?  Rebound to the next guy.  House you wanted to buy fall through?  Keep living at home for the next 10 years.  Not the hosta.  It survives the most difficult situation and then thrives despite it.  It holds on in the darkest, coldest of times and comes out stronger than ever.

I’d like to feel like I’m a bit like a hosta.  Life has not always been easy but I feel stronger and better for it.  After losing Dad, Mom, and almost losing Terry I was seriously tested.  My beliefs changed, my perspective changed, and my needs changed.  I spent months battling depression, guilt, and self-doubt.  Some days, I barely got out of bed.  It was not unlike being under that black plastic pot while winter battled my soul.  But as the seasons change, we grow and heal.  The things that could shut us down actually bring us new life.  Perhaps I’m just a twisted, faintly colored version of the old me.  I think we all are…