Why Teachers Can’t Stay Six Feet Away

I teach English
to six year olds,
(who speak Spanish or Somali,
Urdu or Hmong)
I bring my books and little whiteboards
into their First grade classrooms
and work beside their teachers
so they can stay with
their English speaking friends.

I sit
so close to them
at little tables,
on the rug,
or beside their desks.
I lean in,
my ear, inches away
straining to hear
their shy whispers.

I go
from class to class,
sitting in tight groups
at little U shaped tables.
listening to kids read,
sharing books
and bright magnetic letters.
“Try that again.
Watch my mouth
as I make that sound”

They walk
with their arms linked,
to the playground
and huddle in grave concern
around the boy who
has skinned his knee,
all wanting to
hold his hand and
walk him to the nurse,
to get a band aid.

Back in class,
when they don’t know what to do.
they lean over,
looking at each others’ papers,
sharing
an infinite amount of things,
ideas,
puzzles,
books,
coat bays,
tissue boxes,
hallways,
answers,
air.

“Let’s build our reading stamina,”
the classroom teacher, Ms. S.A., and I say.
“I think we can sit still,
and read for five minutes today!
Yesterday, we made it to
4 minutes and forty six seconds,
our best record yet.”

Their little bodies
need constant movement.
If they are on the rug
for too long,
the girls will
start playing
with each others’ hair,
a boy in a striped shirt
will roll on the floor,
and the one with the skinned knee
will wander
over to the drinking fountain.

We send them back to their desks.
The new girl will start crying
and while I kneel down
to look at her in the eye,
three kids will sneak
out into the hallway
to eat Halloween candy
from the girl with the pink hijab’s
Elsa and Anna backpack.

2 thoughts on “Why Teachers Can’t Stay Six Feet Away

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