Holding It Together

Teaching is hard. Moments, even days, are joyful. Some weeks, lessons go as planned. But sometimes it all goes wrong. None of these days are easy. They all take invested emotional energy and commitment to our students, the children in our care.

Last Friday was not the joyful kind.

I spent a three-day weekend doing several hours of work to catch up on what had been a hectic week. And I rested, breathed, had school dreams, and made plans that included me. It isn’t enough to provide for the kids. I need to take care of myself.

Today my students came back. Today was joyful and tragic, hectic and measured. I listened, explained, and changed my plans on a dime when someone’s pain was more important than the lesson I had planned. I comforted, waited, and offered to carry the emotional baggage that a child of nine should not have to have. And inside I wilted.

The final bell rang, but my day continued. I consulted, collaborated, communicated, and prepared for the next day.

Before I was through, I stopped. I changed my shoes and put on my sunglasses. I pulled up the playlist on my Mp3 player and put in my earbuds. Anna Nalick fit the day.

As I walked down the block to the beat of The Citadel, I noticed the sun, the purple mums on a porch, the still-green grass of the yards. The weight of the day crumbled away bit by bit with each step. I looped around a mile. Feeling ten pounds lighter, I returned and packed up for the day.

Tomorrow I’ll be back for more.







Plant Chat

This morning I read a Discover magazine article about plant communication and the first thing I wondered was what Mr. D would think of it.

Flashback 40+ years –

“My plants grow better when I talk to them,” my friend M asserted.

Mr. D pursed his lips and peered at her skeptically through his glasses. The eighth-grade enrichment class was called Anthropology and most of the time he kept us on the study of man. But occasional diversions were allowed.

A few of us came to M’s aid.

“Maybe it’s the carbon dioxide in her breath,” I suggested.

“Maybe it’s the vibrations from her voice,” another girl proposed.

Mr. D folded his arms. He said we could test our ideas tomorrow before class.

The next morning M brought in one of her plants and Mr. D, who taught high school chemistry the rest of the day, produced a galvanometer. He attached the two alligator clips to leaves and checked the gauge.

For several minutes three girls stood around the plant, saying whatever came into our heads. The needle didn’t move.

“It might not be a big enough effect,” he allowed. “Try yelling.”

We all started yelling in our high girlish voices. Still nothing.

Suddenly, Mr. D bellowed in his booming voice, “Come on, you ignoramus!”

And the needle twitched.


Now today I read that plants communicate, telling other plants things that they need to know. There is a drought coming. Look out for the aphids! Just like us, they are more likely to talk to family than strangers, recognizing the difference both chemically and with their light receptors. A Venus Flytrap can even count. Who knew?

There was nothing in the article about interspecies communication. Sadly, Mr. D is gone. But if he were still alive, I’d like to call him.

“Hey Mr. D,” I’d say. “How about another experiment?”