Working in an elementary school can make you nostalgic. Inconsistently, of course, since children seem equally to try ones nerves and tug the heartstrings, often at the same time.
Last week was Halloween. The students are no longer allowed to wear costumes, as the powers-that-be have deemed them, “too scary.” I suppose that is the balance of freedom versus control, one in which we continually struggle. Give freedom and some students will be too scary. Provide safety and no one will be anything.
I was working in the preschool on Halloween. I walked in wearing my everyday clothes. We played and then it was time for lunch. One of the little girls took my hand as we walked and was playing with my ring. Several moments passed. Finally, she looked up at me and asked,
“Why you have that?”
“Because I’m married,” I told her, “I got married this summer. My husband bought me this beautiful ring.”
I smiled. “Yes.”
Later that week, I taught my second graders the responsibilities of the president (in light of today’s election). I asked the students what they would do if they were president. A common answer was, “I would help the people who didn’t have any food or house.” I explained that, as Chief of State, this was currently a great concern, especially due to Storm Sandy, which has left so many without power, home, food, etc. I told my students how the citizens need help.
One little boy, Jesse, got really excited. “Miss Reeves,” he said, “I know who can stop Storm Sandy!”
“Really? Who?” I queried.
“Spiderman.” He appeared pleased with his answer. Probing for his reasoning, I asked how Spiderman would stop the storm. With my limited understanding of Spiderman, I don’t think he controls the weather. But Jesse looked at me quizzically. “Spiderman lives in New York,” he replied.
Of course, how silly of me. Princesses disguise themselves as elementary school teachers every day, walking around nonchalantly. Spiderman can save New York because he lives in New York.
I got to thinking: where did that go? This belief in the extraordinary, acceptance of the impossible? I realize we have rational minds, we know Spiderman isn’t real and that princesses don’t appear on playgrounds. However, couldn’t they? I also realize those people who walk around thinking these things are labeled “crazy.” I’m not suggesting we have to be. I’m wondering, have we gotten to the point where our incredulity would cause us to reject the fantastic if we saw it, only because it had never been possible before? This age, this digital era with the world at our fingertips, offers little room to be surprised and amazed. As put by Bram Stoker:
“Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men´s eyes, because they know -or think they know- some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”