Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Teaching...Scottsdale in the Fall

As I rambled about in my last post, teaching about Fall in the Arizona desert is a challenge, to say the least. And even though I have abandoned it, my colleagues (who teach older children) have forged onward, hoping to someday come up with the perfect way to talk about Fall to children who live in a climate where that season simply doesn't exist.

Last week, one of these dedicated women walked into my classroom, hands on hips, wearing the fall uniform of tank top, shorts and flip flops, with sweat running down her cheeks because even though it was only 7:30 in the morning, it was already 95 degrees outside, and she says, "How the heck do we teach Fall when it is still Summer???" She didn't say "Heck", though.

I did my obligatory self righteous "I don't teach Fall, so there" shrug, when I suddenly had an epiphany. Why don't we come up with what Fall means to us? Here in the Arizona desert? And maybe put it into a book that could be used year after year? We would be famous!

So, my colleagues and I set about trying to come up with what Fall means in Scottsdale....

Everyone is sick of the heat.

The kids need school clothes but the stores only have winter clothes in stock (one of the greater mysteries of living in the desert).

The pool is too cold for Mom to go in, but everyone else thinks it is great.

The stores all have the Christmas stuff on display.


And...that was all we got. So, I went to our best resource - the kids. "What does this time of year mean to you?" I asked anyone who would stand still long enough for me to get the question out.

Some answers....

I started school.

The pool is too cold for Mom to go in, but I still love to swim.

We open the windows at night.

We planted a garden.

Oohhh...these were good. I could see a book coming together.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting on the playground with a couple of kindergartners; former students of mine.

Ann: "Mrs. V, have you ever made a huge pile of leaves and jumped into it?"

Me: "Why, yes I have. Have you?"

Ann (wistfully staring into space): "No, but I read about it in a book once..."

Me (inside my head): Wow, are we depriving these desert children a right of passage by not having them be able to jump into a pile of leaves??

John (excitedly):"There is a huge pile of leaves over by the fence! Why don't we gather them together and jump in them?"

The two of them then ran over to the "huge" pile of leaves - probably 12 leaves all together - and they gathered them into a "pile" about 4 inches in diameter. Then they took turns jumping up and down on that little tiny pile of leaves. They took the resulting leaf dust and made pies and cakes out of it, and served it to their friends.

So, they didn't jump into a pile of leaves. But as I recall, that was never as much fun as you thought it was going to be. Raking leaves for me was a chore - man, I hated Fall. And if I ever did decide to jump into the pile of leaves I painstakingly raked together, inevitably I either landed on a very sharp stick or dog poop. I am thinking that Ann and John's version was way more fun. Fallen leaves are a novelty, and not something you see very often. Therefore they are truly appreciated here in the desert. And maybe that should be part of this book that I think we should write.

This morning, one of my students arrived, and spun around in pure delight. (Only a very young child can spin around in pure delight. Older people just get dizzy). "Oh, Mrs. V," she said. "Isn't it just beautiful outside today?". And it was. Temps are finally a little cooler at night, and it was a wonderful morning.

"I just love the Fall" she continued.

"The Fall?" I asked, excited. Finally, I was going to find out what Fall meant to a three year old. "What does Fall mean?" I got down on my knees to hear her answer.

She stopped spinning, and looked at me with that look of pity. That look that says, "Does this woman know nothing?" (I get that one a lot.)

She bent down, picked up a leaf, and said, "Mrs. V., Fall is when leaves fall from the trees. That is Fall."

Hmmm....perhaps I have been trying too hard. Fall is when leaves fall from (some) trees. Does it really need to be more than that when you are three?

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