Last Day With Kids

June 17, 2021

Another school year comes to an end

If you’re a teacher reading ‘last day with kids’, most likely you’ve heard this phrase. The question we ask other teachers from other schools is “when is your last day with kids?” Followed by “when is the last teacher day?” People from out of the profession can’t relate. And, it’s not only about the ‘last day’ but its about the feeling, the ending, and the exhaustion! The chance to ‘rest up’, ‘take a break’, do something completely different and most importantly reflect on the school year. For each of us that looks different and after 45 years in education for me it is about asking some hard questions like, “what were the successes and what were the challenges”, and a biggie for me this year is “do you want to continue another year and if so, what might that look like?” I believe if I listen to what the universe is saying that my next steps will be clear.

Last week at the local library book and plant sale I purchased a $1 hard cover book called A Shaker Sister’s Drawings. It’s a lovely book that includes 180 watercolor paintings done by Cora Helena Sarle and the text is written by Elder Henry Clay Binn. They were both Shakers in the Canterbury Village in New Hampshire. The illustrations are sweet and once I learned about Sister Helena, as she was known by, I found that they speak to me in a way that represents the Shaker world of faith and love.

The background story is one that quiets the mind and body after a very busy last month of school and perhaps the answers are in the pages of the book as I look carefully at the illustrations. Helena, age 15, came to Canterbury in 1882 as hundreds of children did during that time. She wasn’t well and Elder Henry who noticed her passion for painting suggested that she spend her time in the fields painting the wild flowers and plants. Helena flourished and over the next several years painted over 180 flowers. She made a commitment to the Shaker world at age 21. Elder Henry knew every tree and plant in the community and educated and guided the many children through his patience and kindness. When Helena was 40 he passed away and she took on the role of teaching and guiding. A woman with a sense of fun, she led the way with sledding and popcorn parties, trips to the seashore, candy making, fishing parties and picnics. Perhaps that contributed to her long life that lasted to almost 90. Many years later the artwork and writing was acquired by a Shaker collector who had the book published.

If you’ve been teaching this year, we all know it’s been like no other. I wish you a transition to summer that’s filled with time to ponder and rest. As we close another school year I hope you will find the light that reminds you that sometimes it’s about noticing the small things along the path.

Speaking of plants and flowers, this is part of a poem by E.E. Cummings called I Carry Your Heart with Me (I carry it in)

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

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