Writing slows life down and I have been too busy living life to write about it. I’ve lived it headlong, fully engaged… and, well, face first.
Mrs. Campbell took a tumble,
Mrs. Campbell had a stumble,
Mrs. Campbell tripped on a wall,
Mrs. Campbell had a great fall.
It was a low wrought iron fence (“wall” is poetic license). In the yearlong study of our school’s city block, we were talking about the land before settlers came. I was about to read a book about the Native Americans. It was sunny and hot; I thought I would lead my class to the benches under the magnolia. The only thing between shade and us was a low wrought iron fence. I asked the children to follow me as I took a shortcut over the fence. My heel caught and I couldn’t break the fall. My face landed on a mosaic paving stone.
I saw the blood and could hear the concerned murmurings of my third graders. I wanted to reassure them, but I was afraid I would frighten them if I looked up. I felt my face to make sure my teeth were there. In a rush of footsteps, like a fluttering of wings, a former parent knelt next to me. Calm. Soothing. She ran to get help. Another Fox parent walked over. He was a doctor. My children stood still as he examined my face. And then… The principal. The nurse. Friends. My husband on the phone. Ice.
The pain and the swelling and the bruises are gone now, but what I remember a week later is the compassion of my students, their stillness in that moment and their whispered reassurances. The sweetness of their young courage stays with me.
Writing slows down the moment and helps us live (and walk) mindfully. I’ve been too busy to write. But there is a deeper lesson here. Last week David Brooks wrote in the New York Times about learning and relationship. In his March 22 column, he said:
“Since people learn from people they love, education is fundamentally about the relationship between a teacher and student.”
Compassion is not accidental. It is built with relationship. Respectful, reciprocal, and intentional classroom relationships and school communities take time.
My children are outraged that the fence has not been removed, but of course it should stay. It has been there for a hundred years. And it is a reminder that shortcuts aren’t worth it.