Authors: Jack Canfield
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL
FOR THE SOUL
A Collection in Words and Photographs by
Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
Sharon J. Wohlmuth
Backlist, LLC, a unit of
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
Cos Cob, CT
The First Day of School
Christine Pisera Naman
A Teacher's Lament
Precious Gift of Language
Stan K. Sujka
Sandra H. Swindall
Tommy Was Real
R. Lynn Baker
Christine Pisera Naman
Lilies of the Valley
Kay Conner Pliszka
The Principal Is Their Pal
Maria D. Laso
Ellen T. Johnston-Hale
Mrs. Keeling's Class
Petals of Thanks
Kristin Spengler Zerbe
t was the first day of school, the first hour to be exact, and I sat at my desk in the front of the room surveying the class before me. The motley crew of five-year-olds scattered in front of me created this year's kindergarten class. The names and faces change from year to year. They are boys and girls, tall and short, plump and thin. They are blonde and brunette (one is always a redhead). Their hair is short and long. Their uniforms are neatly pressed and wrinkled. They come bearing supplies (everything but the kitchen sink) as well as empty-handed. They are always very different from, yet very similar to, last year's class and very different from, yet very similar to, one another. However, although each comes in a unique outer wrapping, inside they are all five-year-olds. And I have found five-year-olds to be a very good thing.
They sat before me, each coloring a paper caterpillar with their name printed on it. This was one of my favorite“getting to know you” activities. I have found through the years that there is nothing children enjoy more than seeing their name anywhere and everywhere. Printed big, bright and bold. They enjoy it; they are flattered and proud.“If my name is here, I must belong here,”their eyes seem to say.
I studied them with interest noting how uniquely they approached the task assigned to them. Some sat straight and tall coloring perfectly and confidently inside of the lines as if they were modeling for a Norman Rockwell painting. While others looked more like one of the Little Rascals, slouching, wielding each crayon wildly like a sword.
I rose from my desk and walked around the room offering encouragement through positive words and gentle touches on the shoulder. “These are simply the most beautiful caterpillars I have ever seen,” I gushed.
As I continued to weave in and out of the desks, a clamor from the hallway drew my attention. Another class was passing by my doorway on their way to gym. I did a double take as I realized it was not just any class but my kindergarten class from last year, this year's first-graders. I paused and watched as they scampered by, some of them waving. They had outgrown me. My heart melted and a lump formed in my throat as I watched them. A flood of memories washed over me. How they had grown! They had stumbled in last year so young, so insecure with wide eyes and cowering shoulders. And throughout the year they had grown, and by June their eyes became sure and their shoulders straight. As the line of children dwindled, the flood of memories dried leaving just a drop in the corner of my eye. I sighed and wiped the tear away with a quick hand.
“Teacher?” My thoughts were interrupted. Last year disappeared.
“Teacher?” persisted a voice from a straight and tall, inside-ofthe-lines colorer in the front row. “If we are caterpillars now,” she asked with her blonde ponytail bobbing, “will we be butterflies when kindergarten is over?”
I smiled at her as she tilted her head to admire her perfectly crayoned caterpillar. “Yes, Lauren,” I said, reading her name off the page. Her eyes darted to mine at the sound of her name. She smiled and blushed, surprised that I knew it.
“Yes,” I said again, smiling to myself enjoying the irony of the thought. I savored the image in my head for a moment longer, then as fast as the last first-grader flew by my door I said, “Yes, I believe you will be.”
And with that, I somehow had a new understanding of the work set before me for the next ten monthsânurturing wiggling little caterpillars into beautiful baby butterflies.
Christine Pisera Naman
Once Upon a Classroom
(Thomas More, Spring 2004 Release)
Is it already August? It blows my mind.
Soon we'll be back to the same old grind
Of putting up bulletin boards, papers and suchâ
Who knew that teaching would require so much?
Of our hearts, our souls, our brains and our life?
Why can't I just stay home and be a housewife?
Many years back, I thought it would be gravyâ
Who knew this job would drive me so crazy?
Correcting essays, breaking up fights
Learning new curriculum, getting stage fright
Are just some of the things we can look forward to
While directing our students to be true blue
To our beliefs, our rules and our expectations.
Oh where did it go?âour summer vacation?
Yet as we walk into September's class,
Eager eyes and smiles will make time pass.
We'll listen, we'll nurture, we'll love each voice
And know after allâwe made the right choice!
olly Warchol, a moonfaced girl in first grade, gave me a gift I will never forget.