I get to be a teacher to my boys every day. Some days it goes well and some days involve tears. I won't say whose. Generally speaking, I don't often feel like a "real" teacher but more like a mom, doing homework with her kids. Occasionally I get to wax on about the beauty of a well placed prepositional phrase, the intricate construction of a sonnet or make linkages between the invention of the printing press and the steady rise of literacy in the 1400's. When my boys' eyes glaze over I know it is time to move on.
I have taught other people's fifth, seventh and eleventh graders and there is something so amazing at being given a group of blank slates and watching them respond, discover and grow. I really love teaching and today I got to be a teacher again, just for an hour. I led about fifty rain coat clad third graders on a soggy tour of the apple orchard at Beilke Family Farm.
First of all, until yesterday afternoon I had no real concept of growing an apple tree. I was in a bit of a panic, not at leading the tour but because the only real thing I knew about apples was which variety tastes the best out of hand (Honey Crisp) and which makes the best pie (a mix of 2 or more). Between my boss, his daughter and youtube videos, I now possess a decent working knowledge of grafting, pruning, thinning, spraying, coddling moths, and pollination. Actually, I came equipped with pollination information because I used to raise bees in 4-H but that's another story. I now know that you can't plant an appleseed and get an exact reproduction of the original apple. All the Johnny Appleseed stuff is sort of hooey because even if he existed, his trees may or not have produced apples worthy of eating. I now know that the Chinese have been grafting fruit trees onto root stock for 3,000 years and it is essentially a type of cloning necessary to produce an exact apple variety. Just give me a little information and I'm dangerous!
Like ants at a picnic the kids arrived in a never ending stream from the elementary school next door. My group had a ratio of 10 kids per adult. Boy, if the kids had figured out the odds the five adults in my group could have been left to moulder alongside the trampled windfalls. Good thing grown ups have such a presence of power! Actually, other than an abundance of exuberance my kids were very sweet and asked a lot of really good questions. They were mostly well behaved, if not always quiet, as we plodded through the mud in order to look at fifty year old trees and moth traps. One sweet little girl with sparkly purple hearing aids held my hand and told me she liked having me as a teacher. If that doesn't just make you melt and want to return to teaching full time I don't know what will! Then there was a little boy who had a story to go with every single thing I talked about. His stories were so far fetched that I just nodded my head and smiled at him. When I talked about coddling moths and the pheromones used to attract them to the traps he told me about the time he had apple juice on his hand and a coddling moth smelled it, landed on his hand and bit him. When I talked about pollination he told me he used a screen to catch bees and they made honey on it. One could take the case that he is a pathological liar in the making but I choose to believe he is highly creative and will make a very good blogger some day!
The culmination of the tour was each child picking two apples, one to eat immediately and one to take back to school to make applesauce. What fun to watch fifty children RACE through the orchard because each wanted the biggest, reddest/greenest, ripest, oldest apple! The teachers were good natured and quite patient as they let their charges run amuck and then they cheerfully herded them back into line for the trek home.
As the children waved goodbye they were full of thanks for letting them eat apples. I'm pretty sure I didn't bestow vast amounts of knowledge to their impressionable brains; most had never been to an orchard so picking and eating an apple will stick with them longer than my words. It doesn't matter. I loved being with them and in two weeks I get a whole new group!