There is a real world. There is an elementary world. The two are polar opposites, and I love that. I love that every weekday, usually around 6:30, I escape the real world with its hatred, violence, and evil. I love that in the place of those three things, Madison Creek displays love, civility, and goodness. We laugh, we hug, we learn, and we share. Sometimes we cry, but even that act ends in consolation and empathy. That which is intended for harm always results in good. Ethnicity, socio-economic status, and religion don’t divide us. We are Creekazoids, and we celebrate our differences because we share similarities. MCE isn’t perfect, of course, but if a greater utopia exists on this planet, someone would need to identify it for me. Receiving a paycheck for experiencing eight hours of blessings each weekday sometimes feels like larceny because the headaches we endure and the fires we extinguish are generally only as intense as we, the adults, allow them to be. Consider for a moment the contrasts of these two worlds.
The real world has terror attacks and senseless acts of war. The MCE world has dodgeball and random acts of kindness. The real world has immigration arguments, national debt, and racism. The MCE world has mainstreaming, FUNdraisers, and racial harmony. Evil runs rampant in the real world. PRIDE is what we show at MCE. Many kids go hungry out there. All kids get fed in here. Some children experience abuse on the outside. Those same children experience unconditional love on the inside. While the world indulges in pornography, explicit lyrics, and immoral literature, MCE days are filled with watercolors, Kidz Bop, and Junie B. Jones.
On a recent Friday evening in the real world, I watched in horror as people were executed in Paris. Their crimes were attending a concert and visiting a café. T.G.I.F. In an attempt to escape reality, I went to a pro football game on Sunday and watched adults in my section fight over Cam Newton’s game jersey and cleats. Some of these same people barely acknowledged the service men and women who presented our nation’s colors. We obligatorily clap for soldiers who defend our freedom, but we fight over the clothes of an NFL quarterback. We beg for the autograph of a guy holding a football, while we largely ignore the soldier holding our flag. The real world is jacked up.
The following week in the elementary world proved much different than my real world weekend. I visited classrooms to observe teachers and ended up observing student laughter. While I was supposed to be evaluating teaching, I was treated to the enjoyment of learning. Over the course of that week, I learned with kindergarteners that rimes sometimes rhyme. Along with second graders, I learned that formal and informal language are distinctly different, homeboy. And I learned with fifth graders that playing musical chairs during library time is a wonderful way to learn the process for choosing a “just right” book. In fact, the closest I got to witnessing any act of violence that week was in a kindergarten classroom. Farmer Mack Nugget was plotting poultry genocide as Thanksgiving approached. Unfortunately for him, a busload of children showed up for a field trip and rescued eight doomed turkeys. Imagine that—children making someone’s (or something’s) world a better place. ’Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving captures, in its own fictionally funny way, what happens when the elementary world collides with the real world.
Those of us fortunate enough to work in the elementary world could offer a similar testimony. Escaping the real world with the help of children is not just an act of fiction; it’s a wonderful reality. Sometimes kids rescue turkeys; other times they rescue adults. MCE certainly isn’t perfect. What we are, however, is beautifully imperfect. The elementary world will always be a better place than the real world, and I am so thankful that my work is also my escape…at least when I am grounded enough to realize it. T.G.I.M.