Shortly after arriving in West Head in early May, I fired off emails to the principals of Shelburne County Elementary Schools. I introduced myself as a retired teacher/ storyteller and offered to visit their school to share my funny story “ARE WE THERE YET” with their students.
I remember how it feels to be a weary teacher in June. Students are restless and eager for summer holidays. I volunteered to visit each class for one whole hour with music, story and games — an offer too good to resist, right?
Ever the optimist, I checked my email every few seconds for replies. Had my message gone to the principal’s junk folder. And then a glimmer of hope appeared. A principal indicated that he would like for me to visit his school?
In that case, I knew the principal and the school was located in my hometown of Lockeport. We made arrangements to meet to deal with the details. Plans were made for Monday, May 31st:
- Grades Primary & One: 9:30 -10:30
- Grades One & Two: 8:30 – 9:30
- Grades Two & Three: 10:45 – 11:45.
I am not a quitter. Immediately, I sent off another email indicating that Lockeport Elementary School had accepted my offer and I included the schedule for each class.
Still no takers. Buy why? They were missing out on a great student experience and a break for the classroom teacher.
I prepared a third cheerful email for the same principals. Three had to be the charm. Nope. Email land was silent.
I eagerly awaited May 31st. Finally, earlier this week I walked into LES, on time, with my clothes on, and filled with excitement to share my “ARE WE THERE YET” story with three classes.
With autoharp, story, songs and games in tow, I strolled into the Grade One & Two class. I set up my materials and then waited for the bell to ring. As the children entered, they looked at me in a way that said, “Who are you? Are you our teacher? Are we in trouble?” I flashed a big grin that I hoped would put their fears to rest.
(Somewhere in my distant past, it was suggested that a teacher should keep a stern face until Thanksgiving to keep children a little bit afraid. I failed that class miserably.)
I prefer to have children in a group on the floor so I can see everybody’s eyes, but they sat at their desks arranged in groups of four. I sat on a half-moon-shaped table and began my presentation, until I was rudely interrupted with the strains of “O Canada.” The children jumped up, standing at attention.
I stood up too, but it did not go as planned. Kaboom! I upset the table! My autoharp and numbered story illustrations went flying. Oh, dear. What should I do? I did not think I should start picking up things so I stood in the midst of my mess and sang “O Canada,” en français, I should add. Following the anthem, I regrouped and took great care each time I stood up.
We had oodles of fun singing silly songs about vehicles. Since my story was about a car ride, “Take You Riding in My Car” seemed a natural choice. How could I juice it up to make it even more fun than usual. Aha! We would use different voices for each mode of transportation.
The whispering voice provided a perfect segue into “ARE WE THERE YET? I told my story and the students in each class listened to every word. They deserved an A Plus for audience participation.
Following the story, I passed out cards for “Memory/Matching Transportation Cards.” As my mother’s daughter, I eavesdropped on the group closest to me as they deliberated over who would go first. They took it very seriously. The tallest one? The oldest one? The one with glasses?
I circulated among the groups and carried on a few interesting conversations. I recognized one little girl, but I knew she had a sister. Unfortunately, I didn’t know which name went with which sister. I guessed the wrong name — Murphy’s Law.
I was able to call another little girl by name which surprised her.
Wide-eyed, she asked, “How do you know my name?”
“Because your Mommy came to my house to take my picture and I see pictures of you on Facebook,” I replied.
A student who lives a couple of houses from me raised her hand and said in a whisper, “I know where you live because you have a new barn.”
I heard from a little boy, “I know where West Head is. My Grampy lives there.”
“Really? Can you tell me your Grampy’s name because I know everybody in West Head?”
He did and I recognized the name.
“I used to play with your Grampy when he was a little boy.”
(I refrained from adding, “About 50 years ago.”)
Three hours flew by and it was time to leave. This experience reminded me what I enjoyed most about teaching — interacting with children, singing funny songs, playing games and reading stories. It was pure pleasure to once again experience the excitement I felt as a brand-new teacher. There were times when I thought my heart would explode with delight and on occasion I bit my lip as I felt tears of joy about to fall.
Thank you, Mr. Stuart, and everyone at Lockeport Elementary School for inviting me.
You will never know what this meant to me.