Kids have a way of seeing the smallest of details in the world. While they often miss some big picture items, they never miss the puncture mark in the shared eraser, the cloud shaped like a volcano erupting, or the perfect rock that most of us would never give a second look.
We had another unexpected rainy morning today, pushing me back upstairs to change from my suede booties to my cowboy boots before heading out the door for work. By the time I was out on the blacktop for before school recess duty, the rain had stopped, but the ground was still wet and shiny. The time change has kids straggling in later than usual, giving me plenty of time for mental meanderings as I watched the few early kids play on the blacktop.
After recess duty, I spent a few minutes back in the classroom chatting with a few of my third graders, listening to their stories of the previous evening. When the bell rang, we headed out together to pick up the other students where we line up on the blacktop. We barely made it out the door when one my students noticed an incredibly tiny snail on the sidewalk in front of our classroom. Smaller than the fingernail on my pinkie, this snail was a perfect miniature model of those pesky snails often found in the garden. We all knelt low, noticing its perfect features, spiral shell, and gooey slime on the wet sidewalk. After taking a few photos, one of the students offered to carefully “save” it and move it from the sidewalk where it risked getting stepped on by the many students who would walk that hallway to a safer location on the nearby dirt. Carefully picking it up by holding the shell, the snail was relocated without incident.
Later in the day, the sun shone brightly and most students had shed their jackets to bask in the warmth of the almost spring sun. During lunch the kids had noticed that our school seemed to be in the flight path of a butterfly migration. Monarchs are familiar friends to our schoolyard where milkweed grows tall, so the kids thought the smaller butterflies they were seeing were baby monarchs. We walked out to the pollinator garden to see if we could get a closer look, but butterflies flittered by in twos or threes, staying above our heads rather than alighting on any plants. I’m pretty sure these were actually painted ladies…the same butterflies I had just seen in profusion in the desert over the weekend.
It always surprises me that these same students who never miss a tiny snail or the beauty of butterflies migrating overhead don’t seem to notice that they are standing on a classmate’s jacket with muddy shoes or that they just jumped in front of ten other children patiently waiting for supplies for a project.
They are perfectly self-centered and exquisitely altruistic, obnoxious and incredibly kind, thoughtful and infuriatingly rude…all rolled into one. Tiny snails and butterflies remind me to look closely and find those sometimes hidden endearing qualities rather than focusing on what so often is the most obvious to notice in the classroom. And I’m lucky, those same confounding small humans are also the reason I find myself paying attention to the smallest of details, appreciating the world through the eyes of children.