Learning From Tania

“This is where Tania slipped in,” I always remember here.

I am visiting one of my favorite places in the city- the Aquatic Gardens.  It is one of those wonderful parks tucked away so that it remains undiscovered by most.  It is quiet and beautiful, with creamy, other-worldly lotuses reaching above the mucky water, the last of the waterlilies blooming, and iridescent dragonflies humming.  I travel the path from the parking lot to emerge from shade to a sunny, grassy area with the first pond.  It is a small, rectangular, man-dug pond with spiky water lily blooms and their flat round leaves floating.  It is 18 years later, and I remember Tania once again.

In my years of bringing my young students on field trips I have only had two children fall in water.  Both were more comical than serious.  But I remember them with discomfort- to the teacher in charge, such things are not funny.  Not funny to Tania, either, after she turned to her belly and quickly scrambled back up the bank. I did not scold and after her first look of shock and bewilderment she put on a “no big deal” tough girl face.  Yet whenever I pass this pond and remember Tania slipping off the edge and getting one foot and leg wet and muddy, I return to the question, how did it happen?  Could I have prevented it?  Today, I am struck with an answer.

Tania didn’t have experience with dirt.  She was a city girl, an apartment child, with a concrete playground at her school.  Soil was something packed hard between sidewalk and gutter, with skinny trees and cigarette butts.  Drawn to the fuchsia flowers in the first pond, what did Tania know, of a curved berm, of grass slippery with dew, of soil moist with recent rain?  She didn’t know to watch her footing, more carefully the closer to the water she got.

Teachers are always realizing something they need to teach that they assumed was already there.  Sometimes we realize it in advance and sometimes late.  And so we are also always making silent entreaties for forgiveness.

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9 thoughts on “Learning From Tania

  1. I had this same tough experience, with a preschooler with special needs – the child jumped into a pond where we were observing ducks. (All was well, I jumped right in, too!) Your last paragraph is so eloquent, especially the last line “And so we are also always making silent entreaties for forgiveness.” This kind of “on the spot” learning is so humbling, isn’t it? Thank you for this!

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  2. Giving our students the gift of experience. Even though she got a little wet, she learned more about her world. That is something she was probably thankful for.

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  3. I agree – your last line is beautiful and full with meaning. It’s so true that we go back over what we have done, always looking for how we could have been better. What we will try next time. I wish the whole world knew that about teachers – that we don’t just have a moment and move one. That “we are also always making silent entreaties for forgiveness”. Wonderful lesson for all of us. Thank you

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  4. It just doesn’t stop, that wondering if we could have done better. Our school travels a lot, from one night for the youngest to long trips with the older middle school students. I’ve been to Mexico, Costa Rica, sailing in both oceans, & while they were such adventures, I did wonder if I’d prepared them enough, if they were going to be all right. “If only. . .” are words teachers think often enough, even if others think all was good. I love that you had us all thinking from your writing.

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  5. We once had a bus driver drive drive back to school before we had finished our head count. We left behind a parent and a couple of kids. Once we knew it had happened the driver refused to turn around and our VP had to drive back to pick them up. I think about this every time I get on a bus for a field trip.

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