Yesterday was a “hard teaching day” – the kind of day that feels like an itchy sweater: uncomfortable, irritating, disagreeable. We had had an incident in our classroom the day before, the kind of event that leaves everyone feeling a bit unsettled and unsure. When you live in a smallish room with kids moving about, and talking, and thinking, and just being kids all day, even the smallest reverberations are felt by all.
At the end of the school day, my head pounding with a migraine, and my heart still heavy, I turned off the classroom lights and locked our door. A group of my students were clustered around a friend’s locker, chattering away about how to decorate it and how much birthday candy to stash away in it for the big day tomorrow. “Let’s write a poem!” said one, and so they gathered around a blue sticky note and began to compose. Five green-clad poets, with their sparkly green beads and headbands, working their magic with birthday words of love. My teaching day ended with poetry…and tomorrow already looks better.
At recess a boy ran to me
with a pink rubber ball and asked
if I would kick it to him. He handed me the ball,
then turned and ran
and ran and ran, not turning back
until he was far out in the field.
I wasn’t sure I could kick the ball
that far. But I tried,
launching a perfect and lucky kick.
The ball sailed in a beautiful arc
about eight stories high,
landed within a few feet of the 3rd grader
and took a big bounce off the hard playground dirt.
Pleased, I turned to enter the school building.
And then (I don’t know where they came from
so quickly) I heard a rumbling behind me
full tilt. They were carrying pink balls and yellow balls
of different sizes, black and white checkered
soccer balls. They wanted me to kick for them.
And now this is a ritual—this is how we spend recess.
They stand in line, hand me the ball and run.
The balls rise like planets
and the 3rd graders
circle dizzily beneath the falling sky,
their arms outstretched.