Here it was at last, a teachers magic moment. Connections were rapidly being made, impressions that would last a lifetime. Doors of learning were swinging wide open and Ms. Fernybunch anticipated the fulfillment of one of her goals for the day.
The country school did not have a formal curriculum. The children’s play and the seasons’ abundance provided ample material for days of rich learning. However, one consistent aspect was the introduction and simple study of backyard birds.
The children ran to the table, eager to get their hands on the special markers that were used only when drawing the featured bird. This day, the bird was the Northern Cardinal.
“Notice the tuft on top of the head,” Fernybunch pointed out.
These drawing exercises were as much about slowing down and noticing detail as giving ample opportunity to creatively express themselves.
“A tuft looks like a triangle!” Grace exclaimed.
Oh this is the life! Natural learning at it’s best, Ms. Fernybunch thought. Suddenly, the focused bird circle was shattered by a single question.
“Do aliens eat wolves?”
Pens dropped. The children took their gaze off the cardinal pictures and stared in amazement at this child, then looked to Ms. Fernybunch for the answer. She ignored the question, hoping it would go away.
“Do aliens eat wolves Ms. Fernybunch?”
“We are not talking about aliens, we are exploring the cardinal, lets look at the ribbon of black….”
At that moment, the cardinal drawings slowly turned into something else. Beaks became curved weapons. Wings were stretched to abnormal lengths and shaded green. Space ships began to dot the pages. Everything in Ms. Fernybunch wanted to stop this alarming interruption. There was space on the classroom wall for Cardinals, not aliens! This is not the way the backyard bird session was supposed to go, and yet, here it was in full weird swing.
At this moment, Ms. Fernybunch had a choice to make; force the weird to stop, or joyfully embrace the weird. Looking at the faces of the children, she recognized focus-a skill that she strived to cultivate in her students. Children that were half-heartedly drawing cardinals were furiously depositing their ideas on paper, along with streams of imaginative narration of the aliens’ adventures. Even her youngest charge had set his mind to even larger circles on his paper and added other circles to represent alien families.
“Here is the mom and dad and baby alien, see?”
Ms. Fernybunch relaxed, and chose to embrace the weird at that moment, understanding that sometimes weird can be wonderful. She would make space in her heart, and on the wall for the cardinal aliens eating wolves and attempt to explain to parents how wonderful following the ideas of children can be.