I was alone in my classroom this morning preparing for the second day of parent/teacher conferences. I glanced at the white mesh butterfly house perched on top of the wooden kitchen in the playroom, and said a quiet good morning to the chrysalis’s sleeping inside. They were formed in the last week or so, and varied in size and shape. I knew they would need at least another week of deep sleep before they emerged as beautiful monarch butterflies. (Or at least I hoped they would.)
I was wrong.
One of the tiny pods clinging to the roof of the net house had turned a dark brown overnight, and I immediately decided it was my “gifted” butterfly. Apparently insects, as well as children, bloom when they are good and ready, and not one minute before or after. My heart leapt, a mix of excitement for what the day might bring, and disappointment that the children weren’t there to share it with me.
I returned to my table and enjoyed a busy morning of conferences, sharing successes and goals for the coming school year. During my lunch break I remembered the miracle occurring in the kitchen, and ran back to check its progress. Ms. Perky peeked into my room, and together we marveled at life's miracles. We perched on stools and watched in wonder as the monarch slowly emerged from its cocoon. Its wings slowly unfurled bit-by-bit, and its antenna rolled down its back. Each foot grasped onto the fragile cocoon, instinctively holding on while it stretched and opened for the first time in its life.
I was transfixed, speechless as this miracle unfolded along with the orange and black wings.
It spent the afternoon drying itself and stretching its wings. Before I left for the day, I reached into the cage and held out my finger as the butterfly gingerly stepped aboard. I walked carefully outside and stood in the sun with my arm outstretched. My heart skipped a beat as I gently tossed the fragile being into the air and watched it slowly flap its wings.
It flew, a bit wobbly at first, and I stepped back. I put my hand at my side and moved even farther back, allowing it to fly on its own, tentatively at first and then with the ease and grace that I knew it possessed.
I watched it fly away and knew in my heart that this simple act is what I repeat twenty times each year. It’s my charge, my life’s work and my passion.
I help the children that enter my classroom settle into their comfortable learning cocoons. I wrap them in words, sounds, stories, opportunities, challenges, wonder, security, warmth and love. They perch in the classroom, along with all the other cocoons, and they awake when they are ready. Some will open their wings and fly a bit early, and others will wait until they feel they are ready.
But in the end they will all open their wings, and I will gently toss them in the air and sit back and watch them soar.