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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ordinary To Extraordinary

Lessons Learned…

From A Brown Paper Bag


We talk about the “jump” from ordinary to extraordinary in most any department and we realize that the “jump” we are speaking of, in a word, is the infusion of “creativity.” Creativity, as a full byproduct of a busy imagination, sees the infinite potential dwelling within the bounds of the ordinary, and then can see beyond that to the path that will lead to extraordinary brilliance. Creativity is imagination affirmed. Creativity is imagination with confidence. Creativity creates extraordinary. We plant the seeds for this type of thinking in children when they are very young and quite honestly, it requires a rather counter-cultural perspective. Marketers, who instruct our behavior, and the Joneses, with whom we love to keep up, might suggest or expect that we fill our toy boxes with the latest, greatest, flashiest, costliest items or gadgets or e-games, most of which make spectators of our children, but I would contest that the deepest, truest seeds of creativity are not found amongst these impressive devices. Out-of-the-box thinking comes from out-of-the-box toys; no surprise. Brown paper bags, for instance, offer limitless possibilities for anything anyone might need. From book covers, to drawing paper, puppets and crowns, from bricks(when stuffed), pirate maps, and  birthday cards, to trees(when duct-taped together), wreaths, and journals, from wrapping paper, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie cooling paper, and cowboy vests, to masks, helmets, and valentines, and on and on and on out to the edges of one’s imagination, brown paper bags do it all and regularly make the “jump” from ordinary to extraordinary in the course of creative play. And they cost nothing more than the correct answer to the perpetual grocery store question, “Paper or plastic?” Paper, of course! Tinfoil, duct tape, pipe cleaners, empty thread spools, popsicle sticks, and countless other ordinary, inexpensive items would fill the toy box in the home of creativity seed planters. For our children to think creatively, they must play creatively, and to play creatively, they must be given simple, ordinary tools with which their extraordinary imaginations may work to create wonderful, magical, unique brilliance.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Seeing Beyond Ourselves

Lessons Learned…

From The Heart Of A Giver


She was an educated woman born in the late eighteen hundreds.  She was well-read, well-traveled, spoke fluent French and dreamed of teaching high school English. Immediately following college graduation, she married her childhood sweetheart, the love of her life, and so began their life together of promise and adventure. Within but a couple of years, her beloved young husband unexpectedly passed away, leaving her with a heart full of despair and broken promises. Devastation.  Anger. Loneliness.  Fear. Time. More time. Re-focus. Re-commitment. New strength.  She, indeed, taught high school English and changed countless lives with her excellence and full devotion.  She continued to travel and absorb the beauty and the wonder of our amazing world.  She never remarried, but she fell in love with the children at an orphanage in Taiwan, whom she had encountered during her travels. Every school year she loved, challenged, and served her very fortunate high school students, saving every penny she made, so that every summer, inTaiwan, she could offer her hands and her heart to the children there. For years and years and years, this was her life; a life of service and endless giving.  Time and age have an unkind way of ravaging our dreams and caging our plans, leaving us to gaze longingly upon that which we can no longer do. A retreat to bitterness would surely be understood, but Maybeth selected a different option than this. If she herself could no longer travel to her loved little ones in Taiwan, she would work from home to package up her love to send across the world to them in large boxes. Tirelessly, she sewed dresses, shorts, shirts, and pants for these children who had nothing. Hundreds and hundreds of clothing items were packed in hundreds of boxes as a steady stream of love continued to pour into that orphanage. She continued this work, this joy until the day she died.  Her legacy of selfless, generous, endless giving humbled, taught, and inspired each one blessed with the great opportunity of being able to peer into the window of her heart.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Brothers...

Lessons Learned…

Courage During Recess


It was broken, of that there was no doubt. The bones in the lower arm were out of place and the pain of that must have been beyond excruciating.  Five minutes earlier, the first graders were all joyously and energetically swinging across the monkey-bars, laughing and cheering one another on. It was really a happy, sunny, very typical noon recess. Until the fall. Just a simple slip of the hand caused the fall onto a grassy spot, and it wasn’t even particularly high, but the landing was just right, or perhaps just wrong, to create the break. An audible collective gasp by the bystanding students, pierced by a heart-wrenching scream, followed by a low steady moan which was shrouded by an eerie playground silence, all occurred within seconds of time and perpetrated the evacuation of the playground, the call to 911, and a small circle of very focused and very concerned staff caregivers  positioned around the very brave first grader. “My brother,” the first grader whispered.  Within moments his big brother was delivered to the child’s side. Smiles, through the pain, were exchanged, and then began a faithful brotherly vigil that brought peace, comfort, security, and strength. A remarkable, beautiful demonstration of the power of family love.  Their eyes remained locked, the moaning ceased, and together they would fight through this. Very few, if any, words were shared. The peace was in the presence; the very familiar presence. Right there, right then, in the noontime breeze, on the playground grass, through intense and agonizing pain, a little but very brave first grader drew great, almost unimaginable strength and courage from the presence of his big brother, as together quite lost to the rest of us they awaited the sound of the siren and the arrival of the paramedics. The healing had begun.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lessons Learned…

About Flying


Some things are not meant to fly despite how alluring the prospect might be. We were immensely enjoying a gorgeous summer day of frolicking in a cold northern Wisconsin lake, swimming, canoeing, waterskiing, and playing King Of The Mountain on the neighbors’ waterski ramp. We, the neighbor kids and all of our crowd of cousins, were all quite accomplished swimmers hailing from a variety of competitive swim teams and clubs, but the neighbor kids were additionally extremely accomplished water-skiers. We were willing skiers, but completely novice and a bit humorously so, especially in our none-too-graceful, highly unchoreographed falling.  When there was a rather short but tired lull in the water activities, the suggestion arose that perhaps the next activity ought to be everyone taking his or her turn at attempting the waterski ramp.  With doubting, yet highly curious hearts, all of the cousins volunteered to ride in the boat and spectate the daring feat performed by each of the neighbor kids. With special skis on, these kids effortlessly flew over the ramp, landed the jump with an elegant splash, and continued to ski past the friends and neighbors on the docks and on the shore whose mouths were agape in amazement at the flying exhibition they were witnessing. Over and over again with precision, perfection and seeming nonchalance, smiling to the crowds, and leaving us all in the boat fully speechless, the neighbors continued the show.  Who’s next? We cousins all made certain our hands were well tucked into our pockets so that there could be no mistake about our fear-filled unwillingness to volunteer. That was not to be the option. We all needed to try. It was easy, we were informed.  Needless to say, against our better judgment and our limited understanding of physics, we each took our turns. It was not nearly so elegant a sight. And the feeling off ascending the ramp, soaring off the top with the boat and all loved ones down below, flying in a superman-kind-of posture just beneath the clouds, and ultimately landing in a supreme belly flop at the end of the ski rope, was a never to be matched experience filed in the department of humiliation archives with an embarrassing touch of throbbing pain. We lived. We laughed. We learned beyond a shadow of a doubt, that some things are simply not meant to fly.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Life In The Neighborhood...

Lessons Learned…

About Neighbors


Life is fast. Activities are many. Involvements and commitments fill our calendars. Squeeze it in, pack it in, as much and as quickly as humanly possible. Often times far from families. Faster. Faster. Faster. Until in exhaustion from all of our running we realize that we have forgotten to breathe. Breathe. What are we running for? What are we running from? Can we really ever keep up with or catch up to the Jonses? What happened to chatting over the garden fence with the neighbors? Life happens in a neighborhood.  From walks around the block with strollers to training-wheel bicycles wobbily being ridden on the sidewalks, from trick or treating to selling wrapping for school, from borrowing a cup of sugar to sharing a bag full of tomatoes, from watching the house next door until the family returns from vacation to bringing over a meal when a tragedy has struck, from searching together for a lost dog to working together to drag out a fallen branch, from borrowing a cool sports car for prom to giving someone a ride to the hospital, life happens in a neighborhood. We need each other. We need to be connected. We need to belong. Children need this, we all need this. We can set a head-spinning pace and race with all we are worth to keep up with ourselves, but at the end of the day does the spoil outweigh the fatigue? What would it mean, what would it look like to occasionally jump off the merry-go-round and instead linger over the garden fence to catch up with the neighbors, to make a connection, to engage friendship?  The human heart was made to be in relationship and yet we run disengaged keeping our empty distance. Not so in our neighborhood. We made a different choice here.   Our neighborhood, although a hodge-podge collection of individuals in every way,  is modest and connected, generous and attentive, and together we laugh and share and grow up. Together we are stronger. Together we are better. Together we are blessed. Perhaps it is time to stop running and check on the neighbors.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Tough Lesson For A Little One...

Lessons Learned…

At The First Piano Recital


Six years old with a brand new dress, curled hair adorned with a complimentary bow, and fancy patent-leather shoes; the world was perfect in this moment and this little girl’s smile matched the shining sun. Recital day was here. But for one who had never been to a piano recital, who didn’t fully comprehend what was in store, this experience to this point resembled a lovely and very special party. The simple sweet piano selection was memorized and had been for many weeks. The Princess Waltz was the ideal selection for an occasion such as this very first recital. We were to bring the music with us to the recital.  My family was dressed up and ready to travel to the downtown YWCA where the recital was to occur in a large reserved auditorium. Upon arrival, we noticed that the auditorium was fast filling with supportive family and friends, quietly finding suitable seats and engaging in hushed, congenial conversations along the way. All of the piano students, at least fifty of us, were to convene at the front of the hall, near the stage upon which we were to present our selections on the huge shiny black grand piano which sat front and center. Our teacher, a stern perfectionist-type retired concert pianist, organized us into our seating order with a wave of her hand. We were to play in our age order, which meant I was to play first. At the appointed time and following necessary salutations and recognitions, our teacher commenced the recital. Silence. My name was called. My patent-leather shoes clicked on the tile floor all the way to the stage steps, which I ascended with The Princess Waltz in my hands.  She stood at the top of the stage stairs, at the corner of the stage rather like one of the guards at Buckingham Palace and collected music as the performers, in this particular instance me, proceeded to the Steinway and prepared to play. Silence. My patent-leathers couldn’t reach the pedals, the gravity of the situation descended around that piano bench with oppressive heaviness, and in that painful silence a six year old’s mind went blank; The Princess Waltz was absolutely nowhere to be found. From her corner, after an eternity of silence, the sentry-teacher began heralding each note of The Princess Waltz to me as one might call off bingo numbers. The gentle musical flow of that sweet song was fully lost in the punctuated call and response playing. She could have brought me my music but she did not. Crushing mortification. Crushing. And then it was done before anyone could fix it.  In the shocked silence that accompanied my clicking walk from the piano to the sentry’s  corner to collect the illusive music, one didn’t dare make eye contact with anyone in the room for each one unequivocally understood with brimming tears the depth of hurt which had just occurred. I didn’t return to my seating order and didn’t ask permission either, my party dress and I, instead, found our way to my family where on daddy’s lap I melted into a puddle of embarrassment. Sometimes, hopefully not too often, our lessons are learned through circumstances that break and hurt.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Winter In July...

Lessons Learned…

On The Toboggan


Out the back door of our home in the country was a gigantic hill covered with trees, bushes, and berries of various sorts, and wandering circuitously through them all were paths, some secret and some not as secret. These paths were the routes to countless adventures upon which the children, grandchildren, Labrador Retrievers, and other friends would meanderingly rove throughout all four very distinct seasons of the year. But one particular path contained no winds or bends; it was stick straight. It was the fastest way to the bottom of the hill, and it was the winter season’s path of choice among the crowd of adventurers. It was the toboggan run, this path that was carved straight down through the trees. Upon this path, upon the toboggan, the riding team could quickly gain enough speed to send the forested world whizzing past in a white and chilly blur of excitement. With dogs frolicking and barking, pig-tails and snow wildly flying, raucous laughter rippling among the woods, and several evel knievel cousin toboggan drivers taking turns at the helm, time danced away on the wintery breeze for these rosy-cheeked adventurers on the back of the toboggan. Once through the trees that hugged the steep, straight path, the toboggan would burst out full-steam into the vast open field that rolled in gentle downward waves across twenty acres.  Hanging on to each other  fiercely yet hilariously with woolen-mitted hands, carefully keeping all appendages tucked safely and streamliningly onboard, the esprit-de-corps riders enthusiastically chased the previous riders’ path hoping beyond hope to exceed their distance record. Then together, with all woolly hands on the rope, the rider team, knee deep or more in snow, would lug the beloved toboggan back to the hilltop for another greatly anticipated run by another anxiously awaiting rider team.  Over and over and over and over again we learned to play, to share, to help, to be on a team, to love the outdoors, to take turns and be glad for each other, to drive, to ride, and that laughter and cousins and winter are another perfect recipe for awesomeness.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Kind, Wise, Gentle Farmer...

Lessons Learned…

At The Farm


We were city kids. We lived about twenty blocks from Lambeau Field, to be exact. We walked to school, biked around the block on  straight flat sidewalks, played kick-the-can with all of the tons of neighbor kids rambunctiously and delightfully swarming the area, regularly ran very profitable lemonade stands, and trick or treated and Christmas caroled door to door at a hundred very welcoming, close-at-hand doors. Then we moved. Twenty-five acres of rolling hills, wildlife-filled ravines, rows and rows of planted oats, alfalfa, and corn, endless sky with endless stars at night, and the sounds of farm animals going about their days. From paradise to paradise.  Urban to rural. Crowded, noisy and energized to spacious, still and free. Loved both worlds, but especially loved the new one. The gentle farmer across the road became our unknowing teacher of textbook-transcending lessons. In his faithful living, working, caring, patience, he shared the pure beauty of simplicity and selflessness. He never said much, but his living said it all. He and his dear wife never really officially invited us city-slicker kids to serve as slightly incompetent but ever so enthusiastically willing farmhands, yet every day in the summer to his farm we would race to offer our hands. And every day, his nod and his big smile said come on in. During those precious summers we learned about life and death, the passing of seasons, planting and reaping, making do, improvising, waiting expectantly, and countless life-impacting lessons as deep and rich as the good soil itself. Farming is a life of tremendous faith and unshakable optimism; the sun will return to warm and light the earth each morning, and spring, at the appointed time, will always awaken and emerge from under the silent blanket of winter. Under the wise farmer’s tutelage, these city kids became country kids.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Show Must Go On...

Lessons Learned…

About Being Prepared


We were fifteen minutes from show time. The cast of youngsters was well prepared and perfectly ready to shine. The adoring audience of family members and friends had trickled in and, with fresh bouquets on their laps for their after-the-show stars, these enthusiastically supportive folks were a-buzz with gleeful anticipation to finally see in context the lines they had been hearing in isolation for months. Costumes, check. Props, check. All cast present, check.  We convened the full cast backstage for our final detail check and for the “fire-up, yes-you-can, you are awesome” talk. They were set, and, now, on their own, as I left them to go to the piano to accompany their show. Just prior to the curtain opening, the mood for the performance would be established with a quick five minute overture of music from the show, while the youngsters waited excitedly in the wings with their happy toes on the starting line ready to dash into the opening scene. As I sat upon the piano bench, our light technician took the lights to black; time for the overture. In the blackness which was fully charged with expectancy, I realized there was no light on the piano. Each second of blackness weighed as an eternity on this accompanist who could not see her fingers to play the overture. Everyone waited, but only one waited in sheer panic. Overture. Now. Before anyone noticed the problem. Reaching for the keys, those familiar friends I can see in my sleep, I set my hands in relation to middle C, closed my eyes and began to play the overture. It wasn’t perfect. But it was okay. It fit the bill.  It provided the adequate and expected mood-setting opening crescendo that ushered in scene one and then the rest of the youngsters’ brilliant performance.  In the flurry of accolades, applause, photos and flowers that followed the show, no one noticed the deep sigh of relief exhaled by the accompanist who would never forget a light again.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Does Kindness Outlast Content?

Lessons Learned…

Kindness


Following a frightening first grade year with an incessantly yelling teacher, trepidation filled this young heart in anticipation of second grade.  Fear, one method of classroom management and control, manifests in students through their downcast eyes, rounded shoulders, and obvious crushed confidence.  First grade accomplished this for me. Just weeks from second grade, hopes were not too high for anything better.  Upon arrival in the new classroom, we second grade students were greeted with a breath of lovely fresh air. In a word, kindness. This kindness was to escort our class throughout second grade, refilling our learning sails with a gentle breeze of optimism allowing and encouraging us to bravely and excitedly explore new oceans of learning. Kindness.  A gentle voice. Happy eyes.  Probably not attributes asked about on a teacher job application, but clearly attributes deeply affecting classroom morale and ultimately individual and collective classroom successes. Kindness pierced through the learned fear of the previous school year and nurtured a restored eye contact, strong shoulders and a sweet growing confidence among all of us blessed to be in this happy second grade classroom. I do not recall content taught nor content learned in second grade, albeit to recognize that we all advanced to the third grade. I do recall, however, with vivid and joyful recollection, the loving-kindness of a very gentle, very special, very encouraging teacher, whose tender ways brought smiles and motivated excellence. I have never forgotten to consider the tone used in delivering words to children. Kindness matters. Kindness builds up. Kindness outlasts content.

The Strength That Is Family...

Lessons Learned…

Family


Jack’s father never showed up to introduce himself. Jack’s mother was killed by a drunk driver when Jack was four. Jack was an only child. But Jack was not alone because Gramma moved in with her suitcase full of love and filled their home, their upstairs flat, with optimism and joy. Although their pile of worldly treasure could have been contained in a child’s shoebox, their heart-treasure was an ever-overflowing cup. Strong. Confident. Proud. Family. There is no perfect number for a family. There is no perfect family. But love is perfect, and my first graders in Jack’s class informed me of that. A family is a circle of love where your hand is held, your face will be kissed, where your dreams can safely swirl, and where, wrapped up in a hug, you can freely spill your tears unjudged upon a Corinthian thirteen shoulder. The need to be loved, to be heard, to be seen, to belong is desperately, life-changingly great and demands a free gift of the heart which is in the full possession of each of us. Nothing fancy. Just something selfless. Within the circle of a family, between the interlaced fingers, flow the faithful , endless prayers of each one for each other.  The bonds of love are infinitely strong across the miles, across the years, and provide deep connection and peace that fully transcend our foibles, imperfections, and errors. We love. In family reunion we draw together in a strong circle to remember the joy, the peace, the strength, the promise, the uniqueness, the comfort, the hope, the blessing, the perfect love that is family.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Glorious Sound...

Lessons Learned…

When Children Sing


I sometimes wonder if the sound of Heaven will be children’s voices singing, because on earth, there is nothing more precious, more beautiful than this. Frequently, when I am accompanying our three hundred elementary aged students singing with all of their hearts in our weekly chapel, I close my eyes and feel overwhelmed by the power of their sweet yet unconstrained and glorious sound. Absolutely angelic. One year, with the sixth graders, we were working on creating motions to a contemporary Christian song which we were preparing as a part of a program for an upcoming trip to a retirement center. At last our work was finished, polished, and ready for sharing. One of our students’ moms heard that the song’s recording artist was to be in our hometown and on a whim, emailed him describing our project. He responded and wondered if he might stop in and watch them perform.  We gathered for an all-school assembly and began by singing many songs all together, filling the gym with huge, magnificent, all-in, raise-the-roof, beautiful song. He arrived in time to be blessed by this. As he unobtrusively stood in the gym doorway, he shut his eyes and sang along with the voices of the three hundred children. He watched the performance of his song. We thought he would quietly slip out after that to prepare for his own performance that evening. But no. He asked if he might share a word with the students. He spoke of love and gifts and music and blessing. He spoke of the importance of reaching beyond ourselves and sharing. He had the rapt attention of each student. The gym was silent, but for his voice and words. In closing, he asked if he might play a song for the students to sing with him, which they were more than thrilled to do. He played. They sang. He sang along for a while, but then he closed his eyes, kept playing, and just listened to the children as they filled the gym with their heavenly voices. He was blessed. They were blessed. Many are blessed…when children sing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

An Old Dog Can, In Fact, Learn A New Trick...

Lessons Learned…

About Being A Student Again After Thirty Years

A Master’s Degree in Education was definitely on my bucket list, but with each passing year, the infinite number of new teaching strategies, the dramatic changes in family, culture, and society, and the gargantuan infusion of technology, made this hoped for achievement an increasingly remote possibility. Toying with retirement from teaching and beginning a second career, I thought the timing seemed perfect to move on. Thirty years. Excellent. Wonderful. Inspiring. Years. Feeling deeply blessed. New opportunities surely awaiting in our community, battered as so many communities are today. Yet the bucket list nibbled at the edges of my thoughts and demanded to be addressed one last time. Now or never. Climbing up the high dive ladder of experiences, with the strong support of family, I haltingly stepped to the edge of the board, curled my toes over and swan dived into the technological deep end of an all online Master’s Degree to be completed within one year. With undying patience, encouragement, help, and support from family and friends, the rest of the story is history. Bucket list attended to. Diploma in hand. New challenging and exciting thoughts swimming in my brain just awaiting application. So very thankful.
Attached is a link containing an interview with the tremendous people at Concordia University- Portland.

http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/students-faculty-alumni/talking-with-darcy-hill-m-ed-in-teacher-leadership/

Don't Give Up...

Lessons Learned…

A Crushed Spirit Remembered

You’ve been shaken and your heart is breakin’
Wounded you’ve packed your bags to go;
The decision to forfeit your vision
Isn’t what you want, I know
But where to go?
There’s still room for a dancer
There’s still room for one who’ll dare to dream
In this world of high pressure
It’s the only hope it seems.
Can’t stop trying to fail is not worth dying
What about the child first on his feet?
He falls again until that moment when
He stands then walks then runs to meet
Big arms so sweet.
There’s still room for a dancer
There’s still room for one who’ll dare to dream
In this world of high pressure
It’s the only hope it seems.

by darcy hill

Don't give up.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Overseas...

Lessons Learned…

Taunton , England

A graduate course in Cross-Cultural Educational Trends was going to lead me on a grand adventure across the ocean, to a cozy, beautiful town in southwest England. I was to live with someone I had never met or even spoken with, observe and serve at a Church of England primary school for about two months, and find my way to various places across England for meetings with professors and other grad students in this course. There were no cell phones nor computers. It felt very far away. I felt very alone. I felt small and not particularly brave.  Students must feel these very feelings whenever they need to start in a new school, in a new town. I would never down-play or disregard or discount or minimize the weight of that emotional strain ever again.  Lesson already learned before even setting foot in the classroom or the host’s home. My host was extremely generous, compassionate and very kind. She was an outstanding teacher and an excellent friend. Our two mile walk to school each day was filled with endless conversation along narrow English country roads lined with flowers and dotted with cottages. Our daily walk took us right past a quaint, busy bakery where each morning the fresh, delicious smells beckoned us to stop for our breakfast of a warm hot cross bun. Many lessons were learned on our walks and many more lessons were learned in the classrooms and among the precious and very welcoming families.  Children are the same everywhere. They love to play and sing, run and laugh, ask questions and tell stories. Families are the same everywhere. They love their kids, attend the kids’ games and concerts,  and do the best they can. Neighbors help neighbors. Kind, gentle words lead to kind, gentle responses. Food brings people together. Sports bring fun. Music brings life. Laughter brings health. Communities are proud and are full of stories. As is always the case, there was significant book learning that was covered and tested in the course, but the life-changing piece of the course was unequivocally relational and emerged in the sweet connections made with these lovely, gracious new friends.
A Closing Thought To Taunton
Farewell my friends of recent days
To heart and home you’ve oped your door
And gently guided in your ways
A foreigner of distant shore.
Though words fall short when meaning’s deep
The best I have to share
Is in my heart for you to keep
A candle burning there.

darcy hill

Monday, July 15, 2013

The "Yes" of Creativity...

Lessons Learned…

Creativity - The Homecoming Dress


It was senior year, and the homecoming dress needed to be just right. We began the search and quickly felt discouraged by the options available. None seemed to capture the unique bittersweet wonder of being at this particular pinnacle of life; not that a dress can magically do that, but somehow it needed to be more special, more unique than what we had seen so far. I could make a dress, suggested my quietly but brilliantly creative mom. From menus to home d├ęcor, from costumes to ideas for school projects, from elaborate centerpieces to hair design, mom could absolutely turn straw to gold. Ordinary to extraordinary in the twinkling of an eye. Mom creating a dress for senior homecoming would be perfect! Yes! Soon the perfect dress pattern with adjustments and adornments was decided upon. Perusing piles of fabric, selecting buttons, choosing lace and other necessary bits and bobs was thoroughly exhilarating and completely evoked the dreamed for wonder and delight . It was an extraordinary dress, imagined, designed, and created with great love. In that wildly creative world, we grew up knowing that if in our imaginations we could see it, then without a shadow of a doubt we could create it. There is something very “Yes” in the heart of a truly creative soul, for with them there is always a possibility, a hope, a chance, a belief, an optimism that a dream can come true. Classrooms of little ones need to be “yes” places where the magnificence of imagination can flourish and children are encouraged to dally freely in a wonder-filled world of play. Perhaps all classrooms and homes need a large scoop  of “yes.”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nature's Gentle Lessons...

Lessons Learned…

From A Butterfly


Becky brought in a large jar containing grass, a couple of sticks, and a furry, fat caterpillar. The lid of the jar had many small holes so “Fuzzy” could feel a little breeze. Right then, Fuzzy, with Becky’s approval, became our class pet. Very attentive babysitters kept an eye on Fuzzy from eight to three, Monday through Friday.  Evenings and weekends, although Fuzzy was on his own, he was never out of any of our thoughts. He was the recipient of pictures, poems, a song, and various decorations for him to look at just outside his jar. We loved him. One ordinary Monday morning everything had changed. He had disappeared into his own homemade chrysalis. So still. Kind of like a sleeping bag. How did he know how to do that? Is he lonely? We watched. And watched. We missed him. We waited. Before long, though, everything changed again. We arrived at school and Fuzzy was out of the chrysalis. He was a little bit wet and crumpled, but he was really trying to stretch and exercise in his new body. He couldn’t move very well in Becky’s jar. We had some very big decisions to make; we needed a class meeting outside with Fuzzy. What should we do? We sat in a circle in the grass with Becky holding Fuzzy in his jar. Keep him because he’s our pet, said someone. The jar is too small, said someone else. We can get a bigger jar. But he needs to fly. He can fly in a bigger jar if it’s a lot bigger. Fuzzy needs to fly in the trees and sky and play with his friends in the flowers, said Becky, that’s what he needs to do. Audible gasp, you mean let him out of the jar; let him go? He needs to go, continued Becky, he needs to be free. Becky was right, we all ultimately agreed. So right there in that circle on the grass, we each offered Fuzzy our best wishes, and thanked him for being an awesome pet. Then Becky opened the jar, set it on its side in the grass, and out Fuzzy crawled. We watched with silent smiles as he stretched and exercised his new wings. Within just a few minutes, Fuzzy jumped aboard a soft, sweet breeze and flew into an exciting new adventure. We waved goodbye. And we smiled. We loved him, we raised him, we set him free.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lessons Learned…

What Can I Do? I’m Just A Kid.


The notice on the bulletin board at the apartment said blind-deaf student needing assistance with textbook transcription and basic daily life skill help, and on the bottom of the notice were several tear-off phone numbers. None had been taken. Someone out there needed help, but who was I to volunteer? I didn’t know anything about blindness , nor deafness, much less both. What could I do? How could I possibly offer any help? I didn’t tear off a phone number either and proceeded to go about my day. It troubled me, though. A student needed some help, and I was hoping to be a teacher. I did have some time. I could probably learn.  I went back, took a phone number, and called. We met, I learned how to help, we became good friends, and my life was richly blessed from this great opportunity to serve. It is well known that those who serve are doubly blessed. A willing heart is all it takes to serve, and a willing heart can be of any age.  My elementary age students understand well about giving, sharing, and serving; it is built into our curriculum. Service leads to compassion. For our world to heal, our cities to heal, our families to heal, and our hearts to heal, we must deny the selfish eyes-on-me mentality and look outward recognizing the need all around, for in lifting another up our own heart is blessed. What can I do; I am just a mom, just a teacher, just a worker, just an ordinary neighbor, just a student. What can I do; I am just a kid. One person with a willing heart can do a lot. One person with a willing heart can change the world for another person.  Why is teaching and modeling this not a higher priority? Will higher test scores or greater compassion be more beneficial to the world?

Friday, July 12, 2013

An Olympic Moment...

Lessons Learned…
Eric Heiden

In 1980, the Winter Olympics occurred in Lake Placid, New York, and at those games a shining star emerged in the event of speed skating. A shining star, midwestern boy, and  hometown hero, Eric Heiden won an unprecedented five gold medals. The hometown was Madison, Wisconsin.  Also in 1980, in a third grade classroom just outside the city limits of Madison, a young student had compiled an amazing, voluminous  photo and article collection chronicling the successes of his hero, Eric Heiden, and was showing it to a certain student teacher.  I was flabbergasted by the page after page of beautifully organized and precisely captioned pictures.  In between photos and articles, Tommy had ever so neatly added his own editorial comments praising the unmatchable efforts, while recording the untouchable statistics of this wonderful humble, hometown superhero.  Tommy’s work was undoubtedly gold medal material as well. Somehow responding to the experience of seeing this with something such as, “Wow, great job!”  seemed to fall tragically short, but what was there to say or to do to celebrate the magnificence of the project and adequately affirm Tommy? Clearly, Tommy wasn’t seeking accolades, for the project itself was the prize, but still, this student teacher’s mind was reeling.  A thought. Tommy, may I bring this home with me over the weekend so that I can read every page? I promise I will guard it and protect it and return it to school Monday morning.  Sure.  Home it went, and it was truly never out of my sight.  I looked up Eric Heiden’s address, hmmmm, not too far from where this student teacher/ UW-Madison student lived. He couldn’t possibly be home. He’s probably not even in the country. I could just drive over to that neighborhood with Tommy’s book.  Self-coaching all the while, I discussed aloud, alone in the car, I will not go to the door because that’s just creepy. It’s a little creepy that I am even driving to the neighborhood, except that this is for Tommy.  Eric Heiden will not be home. He is a world famous Olympic Gold Medalist. This is completely ridiculous. Turn the car around and go home, bring the book back to Tommy on Monday morning, and Tommy will never know  of this craziness. Convinced that turning around and forgetting about this was the best answer, I saw him. Eric Heiden was standing in his front yard, a front yard, as I wasn’t sure if it was his or not. With sweaty palms and shaking hands, I tried to duck down as I was driving and then realized how foolish that looked. Brave. Be brave for Tommy. I stopped the car, parked, got out, and approached Superman while clutching Tommy’s treasure. Eric was gracious and sweet and kind and loved every page of Tommy’s  brilliant book. He laughed, pointed out things, and reminisced just for a bit, and then, in an act of supreme perfectness, Eric Heiden wrote a lovely, thoughtful , and infinitely meaningful message to Tommy.  On Monday morning, before Tommy even had his coat off, he raced to me and asked if I had his book.  Yes.
Lessons Learned…

The Universal Language Of Music


Six languages in one first grade classroom.  Swedish. Greek. Japanese. Afganistan. Spanish. English.  Our hope was to teach them all to read.  Our priority was to build a community, to communicate, but the first few days of school made that priority seem quite remote and that hope nearly impossible.  We had no means by which to connect and our only apparent common ground right then was that we shared a classroom, a cold, lonely one at that. After lunch each day, we had a twenty minute window of time during which we played acoustic instrumental music, and the students were encouraged to either look at a picture book, quietly draw a picture, or simply relax and listen to the music. Surprisingly, most students opted to listen to the music. It was calm, soothing, peaceful, and biased toward no one language. Each mind processes music in its own language.  Perhaps music held a key. We wrote a song about counting to ten. We asked each student to count to ten in his or her primary language, which we phonetically wrote down.  We all learned how to count to ten in each of our class languages with great and enthusiastic help from each other. It was a spectacular song, made exponentially better by the robust participation and growing  esprit de corps of our classroom community.  By sharing a little piece of each other’s language, we were able to share a little piece of each other’s heart.  Our community grew. Our trust grew. Our learning grew. We became readers.  We became friends. We shared a song.  

In An 80's Classroom...

Lessons Learned…

At The Fliptop Desk


The early eighties and before boasted most frequently of classrooms with desks containing attached seats that rather creakingly wobbled from side to side as one needed to get in or out. But the greatest feature of the desks was the wooden fliptop, which when one opened it revealed a large cavernous space perfect for storing and losing an entire school year’s worth of papers, notes home, permission slips, consumable workbooks, number two pencils, all one hundred and sixty four completely unboxed crayons, secret notes from friends, and all sorts of other necessary tools of the students’ trade.  When the fliptop was open, hurricane would be the word that would come to mind. Cleaning was intermittent and half-hearted at best so as not to disrupt the delicate balance between control and chaos wherein the spirit of imagination and creativity reside.  When the fliptop was closed, peace, tranquility, and order were the illusion a visitor to the school might be impressed with if he or she peeked into our classroom.  The first graders and I were, at that moment, dwelling in the illusion state as they were putting finishing touches on some art projects, fliptops closed,  and I was savoring their unbridled creativity as they created artwork upon their fliptops. Gerry was suddenly looking a bit pale.  Are you okay? Yes; just a little too full from lunch. Do you need to visit the nurse? Oh no, I just need to rest my tummy. I can rest my tummy while I’m working; see? You are doing a great job, Gerry, but if you need to see the nurse, you just let me know. A bit paler. Gerry, how are you feeling? A little better. You sure? I’m sure. Let me know if you would like to see the nurse.  Nobody likes to get sick at school. Feeling icky is no fun.  Gerry was looking a real bad shade of green, and I went to get the trash can from the front of the room. On my way to Gerry, I saw him lift the wooden fliptop of his desk.  Gerry got sick inside the desk, then closed the wooden fliptop and put his head down upon it.  It was sad. Gerry was sad. We all felt sad for Gerry. The nurse came for Gerry and he went home to really rest his tummy.  After that, the janitor came and removed Gerry’s fliptop desk for a sound cleaning. Monday would be Gerry’s turn to restore the proper balance to the interior of his fliptop.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's all about perspective...

Lessons Learned…

The Hospital School


In the midst of IV’s, hospital gowns, doctors, nurses, therapists, and colorful artwork on the walls, there was a school right there in that enormous pediatric unit. Student-patients came faithfully to the hospital  classroom every chance they had because keeping up with homework kept each one thinking forward to the glorious reunion with friends and teachers and coaches in the hometown schools they each longed for.  Having health and strength to attend school and participate each day in every part of school was indeed the hopeful dream of these student- patients.  A hopeful dream not recognized at all as such by those students who have never had to study and learn in the hospital school.  It’s so easy to take for granted things that are easy and good and ours, but things can change as the wind blows. Change, expected or unexpected, often serves to bring perspective.  These dear, brave student-patients longed for school. One particular day, I was asked to do bedside tutoring with a student-patient who wouldn’t come to the school; everything hurt and everything was wrong.  She didn’t want to talk, so we just sat that day and for the next few, as well. Homework was pointless, she asserted. Okay. Interested in singing? I ventured the suggestion without making eye contact. Stupid. Too loud. Silent sitting resumed. The next day, I offered, singing in sign language because it wouldn’t make any noise. With a combination of incredulity and hilarity and contempt, our first eye contact occurred. What? Come on, it will be fun, and I wrote this song for you. L-O-V-E, love is special, a song just for her. It worked. She loved it. We learned it and continued to sing it silently on my every visit to her room. When she got tired of singing it, she let me help her with homework.  Eventually, she agreed to come to the hospital school only to help me teach her song to the other student-patients. She thought it would make them happy and she was pretty certain I couldn’t teach it as well as she could. She was absolutely right. 

The Mom And The Teacher Hats

Lessons Learned…

Mom And Teacher, Hats Easily Mixed-Up Occasionally

Visiting with some parents at a Head Start event, we shared thoughts on high priority activities, behavioral habits, and experiences which would serve to benefit their little ones greatly in preparation for school.  Simple things. Inexpensive things.  Things, however, that required a faithful, never-ending investment of time.  Children represent great hope and great promise, and each parent in our conversation clearly carried that twinkling spark of hope in his or her eyes.  We long for our children to succeed and to watch their dreams come true.  Somehow, somewhere along the way, however, life seems to get in the way and our very best intentions get hopelessly tangled in the mire that is the lock step of daily living. Distractions lead to compromises of time and trade deliberate learning and growing  efforts for auto-pilot screen-babysitters. Two jobs. Three jobs. No jobs. Life is very hard. Raising children is very hard. That conversation at Head Start has continued to reverberate in my mind over many years. As a teacher, what do I see? As a mom, what do I do? With both hats on, and with a very humble heart here are five simple thoughts on high priority activities, behavioral habits, and beneficial experiences for little ones:
1.       Read to little ones. Read. Read. Read.  Any books. All books. Go to the library. Get books in their hands. Abe Lincoln had one book as a child. He read it over and over and over again. Traveling through the pages of hundreds of books together, my boys and I were able to travel in our imaginations to places we would never be able to afford to actually visit.  Free field trips. Free vacations.  Never too tired to read. Never too tired to be read to.
2.       Eat healthy food. A bag of potatoes, for instance, is less expensive than a bag of potato chips and so much better for growing children.  Simple fresh food is typically less expensive than the processed snack-types and is completely, absolutely better for you. Eat healthy.
3.       Drink plenty of water. Water supports the brain, and the body needs so much more water than we think.
4.       Play. Forget about the fancy, expensive toys, and use what you have to foster creativity and imagination development.  Children need far less entertainment where they passively observe, and far more mind-engaging, problem-solving creative play with paper, crayons, rocks, sticks, water, and imagination. Play inside, play outside, get lots of fresh air, gross motor with lots of flailing and running, and fine motor demanding concentration; just must play. 
5.       Enough sleep is unbelievably critical. Do not ever underestimate the necessity of sleep for little ones. Sleep allows the brain and body time to rest and recharge.  A well-rested mind is exceedingly more able to concentrate, focus, and engage in learning.

   



Lessons Learned…

In The Pre-School Laboratory Of Imaginative Play


It was an ordinary day ready to take an extraordinary turn into the imaginative world of creative movement, for it was time to play, Leaping ReindeerLeaping Reindeer is a very simple, very straightforward game requiring very little explanation even to little pre-schoolers, especially to little pre-schoolers. Pre-schoolers, you see, regularly swan dive into the deep end of the pool of imaginative play; the mere mention of an invitation is all that is necessary to engage the entire crowd.  At some sad point we older folks hopelessly regress to cautious toe dipping in the wading pool, but that is another story.  We, the students and I, were fully poised and ready for a rousing, exuberant game of Leaping Reindeer in the very spacious classroom designed specifically for games prone to jumping, twirling, galloping, flying, and the like. The teacher calls out an animal, an activity, an object, and a manner of moving, and  then we all begin the swirl of fun. The word “freeze” halts the flow and perks up ears to the next direction and subsequent swirl of fun. We were pros at this game, seasoned and confident.  Hopping frogs. Freeze. Driving cars. Freeze. Soaring eagles. Freeze. Marching band with instruments playing. Freeze. Fast flapping hummingbirds. Freeze. Walking on high wire squirrels. Freeze. Leaping reindeer. Snap. Pain. Freeze. Creeping inchworms all the way back to our squares for our songs. Swelling ankle. Sitting with and listening to joyfully  singing pre-schoolers happily exhausted after our energetic game. Soon, class over. Quick albeit a hobbly visit to the clinic. Somewhat tricky to explain without doing, but somehow managed. Outcome, severely sprained, wrapped, and solemnly promised to shelf Leaping Reindeer for a bit. Just a little bit, though:)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How not to be...

Lessons Learned…

How Not To Be


1965-1966. First Grade. A big year for reading and learning, as they all should be.  Unfortunately, my first grade teacher was a yeller and her perpetually frustration-laced, roarish voice filled our classroom with fear rather than sweet wonder and encouragement. Regardless of one’s tender years, one quickly learns the survival strategies of not making eye contact  and not rocking the boat, so as to be able to inconspicuously fly under the classroom teacher’s radar and avoid being at the receiving end of her verbal attacks. It’s pretty tough to be “bad” in first grade as little ones long to love and please their teachers.  Can’t imagine the exponential increase in volume and in anger had we been naughty.  We were not naughty. We were, however, terrified, and when you are afraid, it is extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, to learn. Fear has no place in a classroom, because it’s unfair and it’s paralyzing as it squeezes the life, the joy, and the hope out of a classroom leaving nothing but cold walls and clock hands that don’t move fast enough.  I survived. I learned to read. At home where I was not afraid. At home where I was encouraged and smiled at. At home where no one yelled at me. I wonder how my first grade classmates did. The lesson she taught, which has been indelibly etched into my heart, is how not to be.

The Responsibility Of Being A Teacher

Lessons Learned…
The Mirror
Look on the wall, there’s a mirror,
After looking around I see no one is near
So I try it, I try it.
Making my hand move so fine
Ha! Look at that! It is copying mine
And I see it, I see it!
Oh mirror, mirror I can see
Your motion does depend on me.
I blink my eye, so do you
I clap my hands and you do it too
Let’s stomp our feet now to the beat now;
Upon my face I place a frown
Just then the corners of your mouth are turning down
You’re just like me!
Oh mirror, mirror I can see
Your motion does depend on me.
When all at once, to my surprise
The mirror image left and tears filled my eyes
It was a window
And I did not know.
by darcy hill

Teaching. It bears a weight of responsibility such as no other. Precious children, uniquely gifted, wired, inspired, filled with wonder and dreams and infinite potential to touch, change and serve this world as no one else can; these are the treasures entrusted to our care eight hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, every year throughout their most formative years. With clay feet and great weakness, I stand before each class, each day in full knowledge of my inadequacy. What have I to give them but love, encouragement, and the best of what I have and am.  I am honored and humbled to be a teacher.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lessons Learned…

From The Heel-Digging-In-Place Called “I Can’t”

“There’s no way. This song is just too hard to play. I could never learn it.” The student was overwhelmed.
“Yes, you can. One note at a time you will learn it. You must learn it, because your choir director needs you to play it. I will help you.” The teacher believed.  
So began the arduous work of learning the piano accompaniment for Beethoven’s Halleluia Chorus from The Mount Of Olives, a brilliant, stunning, powerful, but outrageously challenging piece of music for this extremely ordinary high school junior piano student. Time. Patience. Encouragement. Commitment. Tears more than once. Then, at last, in the nick of time, accomplishment. I could. I did.
Fast-forward thirty-five years.
“There’s no way. The Gettysburg Address is way too long. We could never learn it.” The students were overwhelmed.
“Yes, you can. One word at a time. One phrase at a time. You must learn it, all of you, because it’s in the script. I will help you.” The teacher believed.  
Of course they learned the Gettysburg Address. Of course they could. Of course they did.

“I can’t” can be an insurmountable hurdle, a place where effort becomes paralyzed by doubt and fear of failure. Words of encouragement whispered optimistically, sincerely, and frequently from the heart of a “yes, you can” believer, a teacher, who promises to train alongside and then run alongside all the way, provide the impetus of hope that ignites the spark of a willingness to try. Encouragement believes. Encouragement inspires. Encouragement motivates. Encouragement energizes. Encouragement says “yes,” and more often than not, it is all that we need to move beyond “I can’t.” Have you been an encourager today?      

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lessons Learned…

Creativity In The Coloring Book, Extending The Picture…


It was a Mary Poppins coloring book and the pages were all a very light green, which was extremely awesome because then one could freely use a white crayon. Everyone knows that a white crayon is the loneliest crayon in the box and rarely is selected as it cannot be seen on the usual white art and craft paper. The white crayon enjoyed a bold, frequent presence in my Mary Poppins pictures. My dad and I colored together a lot, for in his wonderful innovative creativity, he was an especially brilliant coloring accomplice. Rather than coloring in the lines, Dad used a black crayon to extend the pictures, and liberally added hats on heads, props in hands, hot air balloons in the sky, every sort of fish in the lakes, additional furniture in the Banks’ home, unexpected and delightful animals in the parks, vendors selling treasures on the sidewalks, and all kinds of excellent, wonderful, highly imaginative and creative fun. With his black crayon, my white crayon, and all of the colors in between, we smiled, laughed, and created masterpiece after masterpiece, all the while, narrating the stories of the pictures as we colored. From my earliest days, I fondly and vividly recall being encouraged to color outside the lines. This great gift of exercising and trusting creativity has joyfully served me and through my humble hands has reached hearts of students through thirty years of teaching.       

Sunday, July 7, 2013

More On The Priority Of Play

Lessons Learned…
Let Them Play

Let them run, let them be,
Full of fun and perfectly free,
Let them play, oh, let them play.
Let them laugh, let them hide,
Let them sing inside or outside,
Let them play, oh, let them play.
They are children too quickly they grow,
Give them joy, give them hope, give them room so they’ll know
That you love them.
Let them dream, let them build,
Imagination can only be filled,
When they play, oh, let them play.
Let them care for many a pet,
Let them splash and get themselves wet,
Let them play, oh, let them play.
They are children too quickly they grow,
Give them joy, give them hope, give them room so they’ll know
That you love them.

By darcy hill


Friday, July 5, 2013

The Priority Of Play

Lessons Learned…
From A Garden of Play

To be able to problem solve is unquestionably an extremely desirable and highly useful skill. Problem solving requires a mind that sees connections and extrapolations, it requires considerable confidence, and it must be carefully cultivated. Problem solving grows from seeds of divergent thinking which grow from seeds of creativity which are watered, weeded, and sunshined in the childhood garden of unstructured, fully imaginative, and wonder-filled play. The priority of this sort of play is critical, for the impact and power of this sort of play desperately underestimated. Kids need to play. Creatively play. With duct tape, tinfoil, pipe cleaners, rocks, boxes, old socks, and all of the things all around them that can readily become something else with a pinch of imagination. All children have imaginations. One of my students informed me that imaginations live under people’s hair. Absolutely right. All children love to play. They must play. Have we traded forts out of blankets for technology toys? In our pursuit of vast opportunities to enrich our kids, have we enslaved ourselves and our kids to schedules so structured that there’s little to no time left for unstructured play?  Have we sacrificed the garden of play for captivating screens and a light speed, leave-you-breathless pace? Have we maintained a healthy balance in our culture of extremes and superlatives? What are our children learning from our choices? If we are to cultivate a generation of problem solvers, a generation of well-balanced deep thinkers and innovators, we must, we must let them play.     

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lessons Learned... Abe Lincoln

Lessons Learned…
…From The Life Story Of A Great American Leader

In a cabin in Kentucky, he was born and he lived there for a while,
So much he never had, but he never felt that bad, for he was loved;
At seven on to Indiana, for new and better possibilities,
And though his momma died, Abe always tried, to do his very best.
From a cabin to the State House to the White House to the hearts of a nation, Abraham Lincoln.
From humble beginnings to the highest height in all the nation, Abraham Lincoln.
A mountain of a man, so tall and wise he’d stand.
In Illinois his family settled, when Abe was twenty-one,
He helped them build their home, then set out on his own, he worked so hard and long, he was so very strong;
Many jobs and always a good worker, his word was true, and he read all the time,
A lawyer he became, and honest was his name, he treated people well.
From a cabin to the State House to the White House to the hearts of a nation, Abraham Lincoln.
From humble beginnings to the highest height in all the nation, Abraham Lincoln.
A mountain of a man, so tall and wise he’d stand.
by darcy hill

So many great leaders have served this great country. Happy Birthday, America!



Lessons Learned...

Lessons Learned…
…From a Drama Teacher About Centrifugal Force

I had seen it done countless times. All successfully. I had tried it and done it successfully numerous times myself growing up in the country with all of the neighboring kids and all of the projects and games involving buckets and water. It always worked. And it was something close to magical to see because despite the spinning around and again, not a drop of water ever spilled. It was the perfect five minute science filler that would stir awe and excitement and leave the kids saying, “Wow! That was cool!” From there, it was straight to lunch and recess with big science inspired smiles. It wasn’t a particularly big bucket and it wasn’t overly filled with water, but the entire exhibition was just right for the first grade scientists for whom it was designed. We went outside with the necessary accoutrements, sat in the grass, and prepared to be amazed. After a very brief and simple explanation, I spun the bucket three or four times not spilling a bit to an accompaniment of gleeful ooohs and ahhhs. “Please show us again!” “And again!” Perfect! As we were lining up for lunch, Nathan asked, “May I try it?” Why not? “Sure, Nathan!”  After two successful spins, Nathan’s spinning arm picked up some momentum, rapidly. “Nathan, it would be really good to stop now; you did a great job!” “I can’t!” Faster. Faster. Then, in a move such as one would make to jump in on a double-dutch rope jumping  game, I moved in on Nathan’s spinning arm. It stopped in midair, upside-down, drenching us both, but saving his arm. Silence followed charged with a certain amount of awe, fear, disbelief, and hilarity. One quiet giggle pierced the silence; it was Nathan. “Wow! That was cool!” he erupted.  Uncontainable giggles. Then off to lunch and recess with big science inspired smiles. Perfect.