In Preparation for Flight

Baby birds are everywhere these days.  Little ducklings swim in the canal where I walk in the mornings.  Our backyard garden regularly hosts quail families, as the parent birds tutor their young in the fine art of foraging.  Just last week I witnessed several tiny balls of fuzz attached to legs scurrying across our back patio.  Even the Seed has been in on the bird action lately.  

Just outside the school’s main entrance, various doves have taken advantage of a small nesting platform build especially for this purpose.  Within the last week or so, even one of our tiniest toddlers got in on the bird watching action.  Each morning as she entered through the gate with her mom, she’d stop to check out the baby birds’ progress.  One of our oldest Seeds has spent more than a couple early mornings standing guard in the hallway watching out for the birds through the window.  Many of us were surprised by the parent birds’ aggressive feeding habits of their young, shoving bits of food into their hungry mouths.  I guess it’s one way they prepare their babies for the not-so-gentle life ahead of them.  

One morning the two baby doves were no longer in their nest.  At the start of the school day, they were huddled together in a corner close to the building.  I didn’t see or hear what happened to them, but later in the day they were gone.  Hopefully, they found a safe place from which to continue their journey.

These days of baby birds preparing for flight are not so different than those of human teachers and children.  It’s a time of hoping we’ve done all we can to prepare our students for what lies ahead.  This part of our school year involves celebration, having fun, and savoring the last few moments together before going off to other schools, new classes, and different teachers.  Teachers are putting the finishing touches on their progress reports, end-of-year awards, and special projects for classroom helpers.  Some staff will be closing their classrooms for the summer, and others are gearing up for our six-week summer art camp.    

One practice I have this time of year is reading over narratives from each teacher.  It’s impossible to read them all, so I ask each teacher to send me a few.  Sometimes I offer feedback or editing suggestions.  Often I express awe at the level of awareness the teacher has for the given student.  Here’s an example of the final two sentences of one child’s report:   “We have shared many life lessons together in kindergarten, and [she] has earned her wings.  We wish her well next year as she continues to soar to new heights.”

Once again, in reading these reflections on a child, I’m reminded of the birds.  Everything we do is in preparation for the next moment of taking flight, regardless of where we are in our lives.  What a privilege and honor it is to be a part of this process with so many wonderful children and families.  In closing I leave you with these words from one of my favorite poets, John O’Donohue: 

“As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destinations.”

(excerpt from “At the End of the Year” by John O’Donohue)