As the extreme heat continues in southern France, I can hear her voice. “Just sit quietly,” Mrs. Erickson said, pulling down the long black shades of our third grade classroom windows. Returning from the heat of recess under a sun that grew stronger bouncing off the black paved playground. A sun that said, “Come on, it’s almost summer, just stay, play a little longer!” But she rang the bell and we dragged our feet inside Washington Elementary. Sticky thighs against the wood seats, we wriggled and squirmed. We could barely sit, and quietly seemed impossible. “Just relax,” she urged. “Lay your heads down on your desk.” We placed our sweat-slicked hair on arms folded across desktops. The whispering began. Heads bobbing with playground secrets that needed to be released.
“Shhhhhhhh…” she said from the front of the class. “Think of the water,” she said. Living in the land of 10,000 lakes, it was fairly easy to bring to mind your favorite lake. Our heart rates slowed as she described the waveless water. The calm of the blue. The coolness, first on tippy toes. Then ankles and shins. Cooler still on thighs. We smiled flat cheeked on our desks. “Will you go further?” she asked. We shook our faces. “Whoop!” she exclaimed, “Up to your waist!”
Completely distracted now from the heat, as our ever-coiffed, nyloned and dressed teacher had “whooped” just for us. “Go all the way under,” she said. For me it was Lake Latoka. I held my breath and went down, down, down. It was so cool. “Look at everything,” she said. “The fish, the rocks…” And we did. For ten minutes we swam from the calmness of our desks.
She led us slowly back to shore. Lifted our heads. And then, no pun intended, dove into the math lesson of the day.
Whenever I think of my favorite teachers, I think of the question, “Will you go further?” Because that’s what they did for us. Daily. Took us beyond the lessons, into the living. It’s a question I continue to ask. In love, and trust, and hope, and forgiveness, in curiousity, creativity and knowledge — I want to go further! I want us all to go further.
If you want it too — maybe you can join me — all together now — Whoop!