For the Love of Children

This is the first year in five years that I am not “A Teacher,” in the official sense of the word. Not even part time. Which is why, when I drove to the Montessori school this morning to volunteer, my head felt a little different than it did when I made that drive in the past.

I had to remind myself of my purpose: Sing with the children, teach them new songs, generate enthusiasm for folk music and traditional songs. End of list. No math this or language that. No reading assignments or writer’s workshop. No note-to-self about individual learning styles or disagreements between students. No first-hugs in the morning when they’re dropped off by their parents for the day. No journal making or moveable alphabet. And for the older kids, no research skills, no hands-on geometry, no testing hypotheses, no peace education.

My list of no’s feels so sad by the time I’ve finished the thirty minute drive, that the pure-love we-missed-you hugs I get from the kids when they see me walk in the door just about sets me to tears. And it is in Logan’s smile, as he tells me about the new tricks he’s learned practicing baton, that I remember the generosity of young children. It is in Megan’s cuddling (she actually crawls right into my lap – eight years old!) that I remember how children never forget adults who are loyal to them. It is in Locke’s wide-eyed “You’re back!” that I remember the ease with which kids can experience joy.

When I go next door to sing with the older elementary children, a similar welcoming ensues. The difference singing with the older children is immediate: they learn songs almost instantly, they “get” lyrical puns, and they have more lung power to project their voices. We plow through three new rounds and a triplicate of boys to my left sings in operatic style, cracking themselves up. I observe this as self-expression and unless it takes away from others’ experience, I never censor it. They’re being physical and creative and that’s a good thing. The girls to my right make up gymnastic-influenced above the waist dance moves to my Pete Seeger cover. This is, of course, hilarious in its own right, but the point is that they’re experimenting with body language in a safe environment – all under the guise of Morning Sing with Katey. They don’t know it yet, but the puberty that’s about to hit them full-force has already started inching into their psyches, and this form of expression during music time provides a little window into what’s going on beneath the surface.

So when we sing, sing, sing, it is as if whether or not I’m “A Teacher” doesn’t matter anymore. My time is bracketed to thirty minutes in each elementary classroom, and I have to keep it that way or else an entire writing morning will be lost. But the fulfillment that the children bring me cannot be measured, and unlike the singing, never really seems to stop. Whoever said rivers spring from mountaintops was right, but rivers also spring from the open hearts of sweet loving children, and for this I am truly thankful.

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