Today, I ventured downtown to the post office. I groaned as I looked around for a parking spot that did not require parallel parking. I thought about how nice it would be to send this enormous envelope from my house. (I'm sure there is a way to do this, but I don't send these envelopes often enough to know.) I parked on a side street, grabbed my purse, and headed into the post office. As I glanced around at the small buildings, I felt as if every step took me back in time. I imagined those black and white pictures of how the town looked hundreds of years ago. I marched up the concrete steps, and grabbed the metal front door. Then, turning the corner, I pulled on a massive wood door. As I stepped in, I noticed the wood plank floor and the old building smell wafted past my nose.
Then, I began to wonder about that time, years ago, when the post office was the only way to communicate. A time when the post office was probably the most important building in town. A time when staying in touch with friends required immense effort, compared to today. A letter or card sent days, maybe weeks earlier meant that you had crossed someone's mind. You had crossed their mind, and they had taken time to sit down and write a letter for at least 15, maybe more minutes. Talk about dedication! Whenever my mind drifts to life in the past, I long for that slower paced life, free from my obligations.
As I started dreaming of that uncomplicated past, I wonder if our students look back on their years before beginning school with longing. Those years when life was a grand experiment with language and movement. When learning was something they did with desire and determination. So many times, my 4th graders start their year already burned out by 4 years of being critiqued and criticized. They have no desire or determination because they have been knocked down so often. I always want our year together in 4th grade to be a year that they can look back on with pride, just as they look back on their home videos of baby chatter and wobbly feet. My goal is for them to look back and see how far they've come, not in what they have failed. I want them to regain the determination and desire that they were born with. I want them to feel that exhilarating first baby step with every new investigation in their academic lives, and I want to be the one holding the video camera cheering them on.