Handful of Wonder

“These are the days of miracle and wonder.” -Paul Simon, The Boy in the Bubble.  

Occasionally you have  moments in education filled with “miracle and wonder”. The morning of Friday April 21, 2017 was one such moment.

As I was walking down the hall, a few minutes before the morning bell, our librarian called my name. Something was up. She was standing at the doorway of the room next to the library that was used as our janitor’s office. There was a bird trapped inside.

At my school I am known as the Bird Whisper because if there is a bird, usually a dark eyed junco, trapped in a classroom, I’m the first person they call. I’ve liberated birds from many classrooms and once I freed a junco from our multipurpose room during an assembly. But the bird trapped in the janitor’s office was no junco. This rescue was a first for the Bird Whisperer: a female Anna’s hummingbird!

When I entered the room, the Anna’s was frantically skimming the ceiling, looking for any egress. A hummingbird ‘s tiny heart can beat 1,263 times a minute (compared to about 80 in humans). Who knew how fast this tiny creature’s heart was thumping now. I just knew I had to free her. And free her fast, before she hurt herself.

I first tried the basic trick in avian liberation: getting on one side of the bird, with arms raised, and coaxing it towards it’s path to freedom, in this case, the open doorway. This attempt failed because the extremely agile Anna’s just counted my plan by flying around me, further from freedom.

My next plan was to climb up on the counter and try to steer her toward the door. This failed as she repeated her agile maneuver.

I turned and my next plan was to coax her to the corner and gently capture her by hand. This plan worked as I left the Anna’s with no escape except in my warm embrace. I gently hopped off the counter with my prize safely in my hands.

The morning bell rang and I headed to where my class was lined up. I instructed them to gather round and sit down. What I was about to reveal was a complete surprise to all my students.

I opened my hands and the Anna’s sat, a little dazzed, perched on my left index finger. One of my students moved back in fear but then wonder filled his face. The Anna’s sat very still, prompting one student to ask, “Is that fake?” At that point, to prove she was real, the Anna’s lifted off and headed straight up. 

This moment is one of my greatest teaching moments. Not because it was linked to the Common Core Standards or an increase in standardized test outcomes from the previous trimester. This was a gain that is immeasurable, unquantifiable. This was a wonder. That pure undefinable moment that opens your student’s hearts and minds. The moment where some of the students you have struggled with to conform to what every fourth grader should know now raises their eyes in wonder at the green gem rising from my hand to the heavens!

This a wonder, beyond words. I remain in awe. 

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