I’m a substitute teacher these days, and usually my students are taller than me. But yesterday I was at the elementary school, and a second grader with shiny brown eyes took a little something out of his pocket during morning round-up, and excitedly declared “I found a coconut on my way to school today!” In his small, sweaty, palm was a triangular piece of dark coconut shell. I agreed that it was a wonderful find indeed, for a humid September morning. Then, I remembered “curriculum”–“Do you think that grew around here, in Maine?” Several kids articulated their more or less completed thoughts– no, coconuts grow far away, in warm places. I joked with the boy who brought it, that since *I* was born far away in a warm place, that this bit of coconut shell could be used as a hall pass if anyone needed to leave the classroom I was supervising.
Then we launched into the day’s lessons and activities–sitting around the story-mat (which turns out to be the math-mat as well), or sitting at our small tables in small colorful chairs: listening to Jack Prelutsky’s poetry, opening apple juice boxes, chasing and then (finally, because they were so excited and upset and carrying it out on a piece of paper did not work at ALL) sending a rather large spider on to its next reincarnation with a dainty pink plastic clog; also handling and washing little rocks of three different colors, giving pep talks to our little blue math calculators, and so on. The day did indeed fly by, as the notes from the classroom teacher promised it would. Most of the kids took the time to give me high fives when they left in batches to catch their well-spaced out buses.
A day later, emptying out my pockets, I found the little triangle of coconut shell. The boy with the shining brown eyes– the same little guy, who during morning Science Time, had demonstrated a “tough” stance with one hand on a hip and helped me to explain the difference between /tuff/ the volcanic rock and being tough–had given me my “hall-pass”, to keep, at the end of the day. In the flurry of goodbyes after the bell rang, I hadn’t taken much note of it. At home, nursing my aching feet (a second-grade teacher doesn’t sit much), I had forgotten about it altogether, until this morning when I went flouncing about the house picking up laundry.