I’ve been leading a morning camp for four-year-olds this week, pressed into service with little warning as a last-minute substitute. I had only two days to prepare a curriculum and acquire supplies. Through the years I’ve been an environmental skills teacher, a land steward, a preschool teacher, a daycare coordinator, a Waldorf teacher, and a K-5 art teacher. I should have had this easily covered. And yet—it’s been years, and several iterations, since I last identified as a teacher. I feel—not rusty, but as though I’m trying to slip into an old skin. Like a cicada squeezing into the case it shed. I don’t really fit as a teacher anymore.
Upon realizing this I changed what I was trying to do. I was trying to do “camp”. You know, construction-paper crafts and ‘enrichment activities’ and lots of raucous game-playing. Don’t ask me why. No one asked me to. After a day of cicada cramps, I recalibrated.
I remembered the story-shows I used to create for my Waldorf classroom, with felted puppets and silken scarves and harp music, and I thought of the joy I take in the circles I lead for women—I thought of, in short, all of the things I am constantly saying about bringing joy and authenticity into every corner of life. Why was I squeezing myself into the role of forced-cheer-and-cardboard-cruise-director when I could do so very much better?
So my camp changed. It’s now more like Joy Circle For Short People. We do yoga, and dance to wonderful music, and eat warm rolls with rhubarb jam. We print with leaves we’ve gathered, and build fairy houses with bark and moss and lichens, and listen to story-shows with silken scarves, and write poetry. Sometimes we even brag in a circle. We are having FUN.
Tomorrow we’ll explore the senses by walking blindfolded through an herb garden, smelling the plants, feeling their varying textures. We’ll make our own herbal sprays. We’ll try to identify what’s inside several mystery boxes just by the scent. Today we walked through the forest, looking for beauty. Then we wrote poetry about it, and made etchings illustrating our poetry. Most of the children are four, but there is a two-year-old as well. I assumed he was too young to write a poem and let him work on his etching while I helped the other children write theirs. Then we gathered for circle.
The two-year-old’s face crumpled. He gestured wildly with his hands until I came to him.
“Me do it! Poem!” he pleaded.
How could I have been so callous? We are never too young for poetry. That is what I learned today.
Listen to the poem this sweet child wrote:
It is a poem.
Here is a poem.
Up and down,
Up and down,
See it go
Up and down.
Me do it.
I want to do it.
I copied his poem down for him and framed it with his two printed etchings. He glowed. This afternoon when I laid him down for a nap I heard him softly crooning to himself–proudly repeating the words of his very own poem, over and over, smiling behind closed eyes.