Sometimes, the days go by and by and by.  There’s meetings to attend, conferences to conduct, curriculum to learn, and work to correct.  Suddenly, we are on the 52nd day of school.  This fall has been a blur and sometimes it is hard to slow down and find the joy in ordinary moments.  This week, although short, has been full of that joy that comes with this job.

Yesterday, we headed down to the river’s edge.  We went back to our journals and took digital cameras along instead of our iPads.  The minute we arrived down at the bank, I heard one of my students exclaim, “this is so relaxing down here.”  She was propped up against a tree, snug in her warm down parka, as she surveyed the white clouds dancing on the teal blue, slow-moving water.    Since we now go to the vernal pool once a month as well, we only get down to the river once a month.  With no offense intended to the vernal pool, the river is much more a magical place for us all.  I don’t know if it is the soothing river water, the empty bare branches, the leaf that floats along on its journey, or the remains of the asters.  Something about this place just mesmerizes us all and brings out the best in us.  So after they had done their observations, they took a digital camera and recorded their observations through the camera’s lens.

Today, we took those cameras to the lab and imported them to iPhoto.  Some of the students played with the effects, some of them re-exported them the way they were, but all of the students were equal in their compliments about everyone’s photos.  I printed some out, and the students were moved to see their work on paper.  Since we have a photo gallery in our room, we discussed how we could hang more up in the classroom.  Watching their pride in their work as they worked on these photographs reminded me of the continued importance in allowing that inner artist flourish in many different manners.  Photos, movies, comic strips, Scratch, and SAM animation are all ways for the students to show their artistic side and it doesn’t involve having to draw.  As someone who also loves to take photographs, I could totally relate to their pride.

Since today was a long day Tuesday, we sometimes have specials in the afternoon and today we had gym from 1:45 to 2:25.  I had planned on having the students work on some social studies when they arrived back.  However, there was a little kink in that plan as one of my colleagues attempted to play a joke on me.  She wasn’t quick enough to pull it off, so it left me to explain to the students about our history of playing jokes on one another.  This led into a discussion, not about the Spice Trade, but a “payback” joke.  I don’t want to play my hand but let’s say by 3:05 p.m. , we were all singing “Give me that filet of fish, give me that fish.”  We were all quite animated when leaving and as one of our parents, who was there to pick up here child said, “wow, you all look really excited about something.”

While this discussion and singing was going on, I felt some momentarily twangs of guilt that we weren’t doing social studies.  But, everyone was totally engaged in the discussion.  I let go of my guilt.  My students work really hard all of the time while they are in class.  There really isn’t much down time.  I have seen things really change over my 13 years of teaching, and there seems to be less time to do things like the river.  Recently, one of my former students contacted me about a Native American cooking experience and luncheon that we had while he was in 5th grade.   I did not remember that we had actually cooked things in school.  Now a freshman at Boston College, he is a member of the Native American club there and he invited me to a cook off that they are holding.  Obviously the cooking we did in fifth grade stayed with him for all of these years.  So, it was okay to let go and have some fun.  Sometimes, it’s those lesson that aren’t part of the curriculum frameworks that are the true learning experience.  So, we sang and danced our way out to the buses and it was joyful.

Picture taken by my son while he was in Prifti's class

About an hour later, I heard a piece of news that reaffirmed my choice in letting go.  The beloved CCHS photography teacher, Dave Prifti, had died after a two and a half year battle with pancreatic cancer.  Dave blogged about his illness throughout this time period.  He was an inspiration to us all in that through his illness, he reminded all of us how to live, to treasure those small moments, that bite of a cookie, the beauty of nature, and the importance of friends, families, and even random strangers.  Dave wrote his last blog post about three weeks ago.  He thanked everyone for supporting him and his family throughout his illness.  Little did he know how much his words inspired us all.  Reading the 240 plus comments posted after that post contained so many joyful moments from his students and colleagues.     It was pretty clear that they moments they treasured were those fun times, the times that they laughed together, the times that Dave encouraged them to find their own paths.

So to Dave, thank you for inspiring so many students, including my own sons, to find the beauty in everyday moments.

And my colleague best be on alert.