My new students are wiggly, to say the least, but one thing that really seems to calm them down is a good read aloud. It also brings out the best in them.
Yesterday’s read aloud was City Green by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan, a charming story about a newly vacant lot that’s turned into a beautiful city garden. While this story doesn’t really have a villain or an antagonist, there is Old Man Hammer, the grumpy old man who recurs throughout the story, unwilling to help build the city garden. One evening, though, the main character, Marcy, sees Old Man Hammer go into the vacant lot and plant some seeds. He thinks that no one sees him, but all along Marcy had seen him. By the end of the story, Old Man Hammer’s seeds sprout into beautiful sunflowers, even though he never told anyone he planted them.
And so yesterday, we discussed this change in Old Man Hammer as we read the story aloud, and I was taken aback, once again, by how insightful children can be, and how, by being a teacher, I cannot only watch them grow and learn, but I can watch myself grow and learn in tandem.
“Well, maybe he was afraid to help with the garden,” one of our students said.
“Oh, really? What makes you think that?” I replied.
“Well, the building was knocked down, and then they put the garden in. Maybe he was sad that the building was knocked down. And maybe he’s worried that something will happen to the garden, too,” he speculated.
While there was absolutely no evidence in the text for this, his thought was quite profound, in my opinion. At the prime age of seven, this student recognized something that I am only beginning to learn–something with which I am still learning to cope.
Our past colors our present and may assist us in projecting into our future, whether we ask for its help or not. From this student’s perspective, Old Man Hammer clearly had some sort of struggle helping with the garden, perhaps due to a fear or latent sadness. But Old Man Hammer used the community–he used the people around him–to help recolor his future in the form of beautiful and radiant sunflowers.
And so yesterday, one of my students reminded me that we need not rely on the past to color our present. Instead, we may rely on the people around us to color the present… and to help our futures bloom, just as Old Man Hammer’s sunflowers shone for all to see.