June is joy. The air seems to sparkle with celebration, and yet … there is a wistfulness. June is the bittersweet beauty of finishing something good and letting it go. June is the last page of a favorite book that will be put away carefully—treasured and never to be forgotten. June is saying good-bye to a group of children and parents I have grown to love.
Favorite books help me understand June in Room 204. Charlotte’s Web helps me understand that teaching these children has been part of my life’s work. Charlotte would call this her magnum opus. The Secret Garden provides a beautiful metaphor for the classroom as a walled space where wonderful transformation can take place. Mary Poppins reminds me that I give children what I have to give and when it is time for the wind to change my work is done. A teacher’s love requires a quick release.
Last week a riot of pink roses decked the garden walk at Richmond Hill and I was reminded of another book that helps me understand June: The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupéry. Someone gave me this book when I was a child. I read it, but didn’t get it. Later, I had to read it in French Literature. I didn’t get it in French either.
One June day I went for a walk in the Fan and wandered into The Black Swan Bookstore. Aimlessly, I ran my finger along the spines of the books on the shelves in the Children’s section and pondered the end of the school year. There it was: The Little Prince. I pulled the book off the shelf and sat down on the floor. I was going to give the book one more chance and then, suddenly, I was entranced. From the dedication (“to the child this grown-up once was”) to the last page, I relished the beauty of this book.
Why do the children I teach seem so extraordinary year after year? I found the answer in the pages of The Little Prince.
The little prince wondered why his rose seemed so magnificent when there were so many others. The fox told him (and me) the secret…
“Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
That’s it. In a schoolroom a teacher has to learn to look with her heart to really see children. Why do the children I teach seem so extraordinary? Because they are.
Teacher, teacher what do you see?
I see an extraordinary, beautiful, insightful class looking at me.
In two weeks the wind will change, the classroom will empty, and the echoes will fade down the hall. And then, like a walled garden, Room 204 will rest, and wait.
But now we are together. These children will help me create our final unit on Fairy Tales and Storytelling. It is an appropriate way for us to end. After all, we are part of one another’s happily ever after.