Driving down the downtown expressway this week, cars passed, rain splashed, and I mindlessly listened to All Things Considered on the radio. That’s when I caught them together: bright sunshine and dark rain clouds. That can happen on an April afternoon and when it does, you have to work fast. I checked my mirrors, scanned the sky and remembered the story.
On an April afternoon some years ago, a substitute custodian came into my classroom after school to clean. I introduced myself and he told me that we’d met before. And then he said there was something he’d always wanted to ask me.
“Are you joyful because you are made that way or are you that way because you choose to be?”
I was taken aback by this philosophical (and personal) question, but he was earnest; he leaned against the broom as he waited for an answer. I looked out the window as I pondered the question and there they were: the bright sun and stormy clouds.
“Wait,” I said as I stood up and rushed over to the windows. “I want to think about your question, but I have to look.” I moved quickly from one wall of windows to the other. I motioned him to follow. “Come look with me. The conditions are perfect for a rainbow!” He stood next to me and looked. And there it was.
“Whoa!” He said. “I get it!”
I don’t know that I ever answered his question, but I hear it every time I catch the bright sun mingling with dark clouds in the late afternoon April sky. Or when a storm threatens the life or happiness of someone I love. Or on a day that feels like a dark cloud looming. I get busy and start looking.
May is just around the corner. April showers bring May flowers and Mothers’ Day; baseball and barbecues; the Strawberry Street Festival and strawberry shortcake; picnics and porch parties. And April showers bring, well, the May state-mandated testing of standards: the Virginia SOL’s.
If our third graders do well, the school does well. And if the school does well, the school system does well. That’s why they call it high stakes testing.
But I’m not worried. And I’ve told the children they should not worry either. We’ve worked hard. The material has been taught and learned. Our review will be a celebration of all that we know. We will connect the dots and finish the seams; dot the i’s and cross the t’s. We will continue to learn new material in math and science and deepen our lives as readers and writers. We’ll be true to ourselves and true to our school.
Radiant light consorts with rain clouds on the horizon. Come look! The conditions are just right. I know there is a beautiful rainbow out there.
And if we don’t look, we’ll miss it.
When you change the things you look at, the things you look at change…It’s all in your perspective.
I love seeing bright sunlight against a dark and stormy sky (even when no rainbow forms). It is so beautiful and awe-inspriring – and it is a perfect metaphor for you and your teaching. You, Annie, are the dazzling light… and walking into room 204 we get to see the rainbow.
We have so much to learn from everyone around us and as I read your post about the coming of new seasons, the dark cloud landed for me when you started talking about the “high stakes tests”. My hope for education’s future is that the moment of truth will find itself closed to the coming of the rainbow and an center stage assessment that reflects more about the real work of learning. I wonder what a 221 century assessment will look like?
Annie, I loved this piece of writing. What a special moment of connection you described. Your actions really did give him the answer he was looking for – it’s who you are and how you see things. May you always have eyes that not only see but ‘look for’ rainbows!
How wonderful that he asked and that you found the rainbow that afternoon- and all the other rainbows you’ve found! I had the pleasure of hearing Maya Angelou speak recently and her thread was that there are rainbows all around us, when we look. Always in the sky, but in those around us too- I think you must be a rainbow for others.
The teaching, the WORKSHOP teaching, you do every day of the year will prepare them for the SOLs.
wow! your rainbow story. the custodian…wow.
Annie.. i love your writing voice! I love this blog. Can you add an “archive” to your site so we can see more?! 🙂
Yes! You can look at the rain cloud and be glum, or search for the rainbow and feel joy. I hope I always search for the rainbow
Yes, I love rainbows. When I see the rain clouds and the sunshine, I get excited. I know a rainbow is going to form any minute now. It brings me joy and at that brief moment, nothing else matters.