Friday, May 23, 2008

glorious chaos

i am sitting on my back porch sipping my wine, slowly recovering from the activities of the day. we had our second kindergarten field trip of the year, and, while i can say i loved every minute of it, i feel like i was trapped inside a bouncy ball. every time i thought i knew which way we were going, where i should be looking, or what to expect, we bounced in the opposite direction.

i knew it was going to be an exciting, yet exhausting day when i ran into kindergartners in the hallway before school started this morning. they were floating on air and stopping any one who would listen to them to tell them that they were going on a field trip. one boy kept grabbing both my hands in his and saying, "i can't even believe it!"

the day began as my bus partner, a very talkative and happy girl, told me all about the gun fight at the mexican restaurant that killed her uncle. which is why her mom works at mcdonalds, but her dad still works at the restaurant. (mental note~ this is common happy hour location... watch behavior when we're out as teachers...) the bus drove us through their neighborhoods and tiny fingers hit the bus windows, frantically pointing at their apartments as we drove by. the apartment pools were all being prepared to open tomorrow, and the children cheered loudly when we drove past.

we went to a county park not far from our school that is set up with many gardens throughout its land. there is a rose garden, rock gardens, gardens hidden behind other gardens, tiny gardens with tiny ponds of water hidden in their dark corners.

if i had been 8 i would have run off away from everyone and pretended i was living inside the book secret garden. instead it was as though i was inside the secret garden, just with children who usually aren't allowed to play outside because its not safe, and who also have special needs. magical and exhausting.

my favorite moments were hearing the cries of "LOOK! Nature!!" from the kiddos in my group. my group also became obsessed with 2 items at the park: the signs telling you about the plants, and the benches which were well placed under canopies of roses or under large, shady trees. we have pictures from every bench at the park. some we sat on twice. one of my charges was being interviewed by his classroom teacher later in the day about his favorite part of the day. "the beeches!" he exclaimed loudly, over and over again. it took us quite awhile to figure out he meant benches. i mean, i was strict a few times, but i don't think i qualified as a beech.

i was charmed by the excitement of kindergartners running from small hidden sign to hidden sign. it was as though we were on a word easter egg hunt. "LOOK! That letter is in Sam's name!" I'd hear. Or, "Here's another sign!! Read it! Read it!" over and over again. i will admit that a few times i shamelessly read the signs as i imagined they'd say, "please do not climb on me!" or, "DON'T CLIMB ON THE TREES!" "i am trying to grow. don't step on me!" but usually i read the odd floral name, or attempted to, as they quickly lost interest and skipped on to the next sign.

parts of the garden reminded me so much of my own childhood. i was lucky to grow up in the middle of nowhere near grandparents who had a fairly well-sized farm. nature was a part of my day to day life. i built little houses out of moss, played hide and seek in our woods, built forts, and climbed trees. it saddened me to lead them away from the apple trees, yelling, "I SAID DO NOT CLIMB THE TREE" when i know that apple trees are the best climbing trees in the world. or the multiple games of hide-and-seek i had to stop because, well, hide-and-seek just isn't safe. these gardens were perfect for hide and seek. the willow trees, the hidden pathways with rose bushes climbing up both sides begged the children to play hide-and-seek. i feel that i denied a part of their childhood by taking away these opportunities.

not that there weren't exciting games of duck-duck-goose, red light green light, and relays to keep us busy. or the parent who showed a small group of children how to start a fire with a magnifying glass. (i was horrified, but i think i learned that in first grade the exact same way. at least they weren't burning ants.) the children flopped their bodies on the soft grass and exclaimed at how wonderfully thick and soft it was. despite the lack of hills they still log rolled across the lawn and giggled at the grass in their hair.

it was a close-to-perfect field trip.

yet it was still a kindergarten field trip, and i am exhausted. and enjoying my wine.

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