Friday, January 14, 2022


 Tommy is a five year old whose parents are both deaf. His entry into school the year has been a challenge. His ability to socialize with his peers has been strained, to put it mildly. The real joy has come over these past few months, watching him become accustomed to the rhythms of school and the interactions he has with peers and staff. The fact that he came to PE last week without his backpack, a near constant accessory in case of the need for flight, was a breakthrough celebrated by us all. 

Last Friday, Tommy was hanging from the monkey bars, and his grip though fierce was beginning to loosen. "Help! I don't want to fall!" Even after a semester of watching his classmates climb up and jump to the mat, he was frozen. He couldn't go forward or back, and was faced with the inevitability of gravity. I walked over and grabbed him around the waist.

"I've got you." Tommy wrapped his arms around my neck and sobbed. Eventually, he calmed down enough to let me lower him to the ground. As I did so, I explained that there was this rubber mat down there, specially installed for just such an emergency. He could bounce. When we were six inches from the ground, I let him drop. 

When Tommy looked up, his eyes were wide. I was not sure if I had just sent him into another deeper round of mistrust. Instead, he lit up. He smiled and laughed. Then he raced over to the ladder, climbed up the three rungs, and after a moment of hesitation, he leapt. Three feet and an eternity later, he touched down, rolled to recover, and got up smiling. He had found a new joy. The last five minutes of recess were spent with him insisting that I watch him hop down from his perch. Over and over. When the bell rang, he didn't want to stop. 

I couldn't blame him.

It was this experience that made me reflect about teaching in the time of COVID. How do we make five year olds feel safe when they are only starting to trust a world outside their mother's arms? How do we teach them how to read and write when our biggest responsibility currently is keeping them from catching a deadly disease? 

Someone will catch you. Or that rubber mat below will save you. 


1 comment:

Kristen Caven said...

This story took me right back to my own childhood moment of letting go of those bars the first time!