Although it happened years ago, I still remember the sheer panic I felt as preschoolers darted through the manmade cave at the zoo near where I grew up. In my memory, the tunnels were black as pitch as the younglings darted through like pro spelunkers as I tried to keep up with them. I remember nothing else from the field trip. I don’t remember driving there. I don’t remember other exhibits. I only remember the panicked feeling that swelled through me, knowing that these preschoolers would be lost forever, never to be found.
I was in second grade.
And, of course, all of the preschoolers made it safely back home, but I still cannot help but remember this trip I made with my mom’s Sunshine School class.
Everything else about that trip and why I was there is hazy. Second grade feels like an almost alien time for me at this point in my life.
But, if I remember correctly, I believe I had some kind of strange skin rash that prevented me from attending 2nd grade for a few days. The rash wasn’t a big deal except that my 2nd grade teacher was pregnant, and it could be contagious for the unborn baby . . . wait . . . that doesn’t sound right. Perhaps, it was my first grade year that this field trip occurred, and I . . .
This is why I should have taken my tiny elementary hands and journaled all of these details then. Over two decades later, it is hard to remember the finer details.
Now, years later and in another state, I consider all of this as I step onto a bus full of sixty kindergarteners, eager for their own zoo trip.
The bus rumbles to life, the last to leave the school. The kinders shift from chanting the nearby college mantra to singing “We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo”.
I smile. I will miss working with elementary students next year.
With shifts to my assignments at work, I will only be working with secondary classrooms, which is definitely where I prefer working, but I will miss the tiny humans.
I will miss trying to coax a child out from under a computer table. I will miss trying to decipher the random letters a student writes, as they beam with pride over their well-plotted story. I will miss their eagerness to learn and their thirst for knowledge.
I will miss stories of crayon protest and sleepy pigeons and greedy mice. But most of all, I will miss their wonder for knowledge and imagination.
As the bus pulls up to the zoo, I know I am being overdramatic. My office will be in the same spot next year, and I can always pop into an elementary classroom at anytime. And, chances are, I will continue to have lunch duty with the elementary students.
Yet, it will still be different.
Things always change.
What matters most is how we respond and continue making our way through the world.