My directions are the same for each birthday: “The birthday child takes the first bite. But not until they taste our words.” The birthday child stands with me and hears our words, offered child by child. And then we end with my words. I say what I see, what I appreciate, what I know to be uniquely true about the gifts of the birthday girl or boy. Words are a gift in Room 204.
I was sent out of the room on Wednesday afternoon. When it was time to go back in, I walked up the stairs hearing my class sing “Happy Birthday, Mrs.Campbell.” I walked in and saw tables carefully set with treats that the children brought in. “Surprise!”
One child announced, “Mrs. Campbell takes the first bite, but not until she tastes our words.” Another handed me a tissue. Another explained, “We will each stand by you as you taste our words, just like you have stood by us on our birthdays.”
One after another my third graders came forward to fill my cup with birthday words. I knew that each hug was about more than my birthday; we were beginning our good-bye.
“Mrs. Campbell, your third grade teacher would be so proud of you,” one child said.
We ate the treats. We played a class version of Bananagrams with Cheeze-Its that had letters on them. We laughed.
This birthday ritual was a tangible example of children owning what they had been taught. I was so touched. But where are the words? I know words. I have words. I love words. The only words that come are from Marcel Marceau:
“Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?”
Thank you, Third Graders… for the beautiful book, for the beautiful words, for the beautiful birthday, and for the very beautiful year.