Monday, September 3, 2007


When a thing is wick it has a light around it

Maybe not a light that you can see

But hiding down below a spark's asleep inside it

Waiting for the right time to be seen

From the Broadway show The Secret Garden with Book and Lyrics by Marsha Norman

In our go-go world of "this needed to get done yesterday" it is often easy to overlook the importance of small moments of human kindness, manners and issues of social etiquette. Added pressure to adhere to deadlines can make robots out of even the sweetest folk. Smiles as you pass in the corridors may be replaced with the concentration of self involved introspection. Not only do you neglect to say "Hello", you actually do not even 'see' anyone or anything else but the task afore ye. Establishing a courteous, thoughtful work environment that allows for a bit of stopping to smell the roses generally starts with those who are leading, whether it be in a business or a family.

Building a sense of community among coworkers cannot be underestimated. Once there is trust, with everyone reading off the same page, petty differences or misunderstandings melt away to the periphery. The remaining structure is strong. The work gets done. Folks are happy. Stop, breathe...this too shall pass.

In the midst of all of our preparations during the first two days of school before the students arrive we had to attend several meetings. It can not be emphasized enough that NO ONE WANTS TO BE THERE. All anyone wants to do is dig into setting up and preparing their classrooms for which there never seems to be ample time. Although to our Principal, Rebecca, and Assistant Principal, Dave's credit this year we were given more time than I can ever remember in years past.

So, "Bravo" for that.

And "Bravo" for this...

Visualize the setting if you can. A late morning meeting in the cafeteria (or canteen as my Australian friend Max would say) complete with a breakfast spread of assorted bagels, cream cheese, butter, coffee and tea. Low rumblings of voices are only overpowered by the even larger rumblings of the air conditioning units overhead. Rebecca steps forward to welcome us and rolls out a large rather odd looking plant that is kinda like Aloe Vera but not. Well, she said it was in that 'family' but I do not know the name of it.

Rebecca shares with us that each new school year she takes a small slip or clipping from a plant, gets a new clay pot, some 'clean' dirt (that last bit made me laugh. Rather an oxymoron but I get the point) and creates a new plant. This is symbolic of growth and development.

Her love of nature is well known to us so we all think "Oh, that's sweet", "What a good idea", etc. Then another cart is wheeled out with bags of 'clean' dirt, boxes containing clay pots and more of these strange looking plants.

Now it is our turn to pinch off a segment and plant. But before we do we are invited to think of one word that will symbolize our teaching or attitude this year. One idea that will be our touchstone.

People call out words like:



While all of this is happening my colleague Zack (pictured left) comes up with the Taj Mahal of words and asks me if he should say it. I said "Of course!" His was a perfect word to describe our role as a teacher. Instead of just calling it out he steps to the front of the room and shares this word...
This is followed by a brief description: Wick in this context is about seeing more in the child than they may be showing. It is about potential and belief. It is a way of viewing children that is positive, encouraging and supportive. This reminds us that not all children are the same, that they learn in different ways and that we must be thoughtful in our lessons and interactions. It also states that ALL children are to be cherished.

I wish I had thought of it.

CODA: I went in to work today which is officially the first day of school. Before I headed down to meet my new class I took a quick picture of the plant that will represent the WICK in my classroom. This little guy is there to remind me to look beyond the mundane trappings of day to day routine and search for the magic within each student.
When a thing is wick and someone cares about it
And comes to work each day like you and me...


ciara said...

well it seems your coworker is one smart cookie as well...somehow i think the school you are at has a LOT of wonderful teachers who show these kids that they really matter to them. i've seen schools where the teachers just kind of 'give up' for several different reasons, and we all know who suffers the most from that...the kids.

Junk Thief said...

The wick metaphor is nice. In bigger cities, it often seems people acquire dogs, in part, to break the isolation between them and strangers. Dogs have no problem getting outside of their heads and making a new friend on the street. I think most people long for that but rely on their pets to break the ice.

Gary said...

Ciara - We do have a lot of wonderful teachers at our school. I feel very blessed and happy to work with them.

JT - I know, I was never so popular as when I would walk my Boxer down the street when I lived in Manhattan. They are real chick magnets. :)
I think you have a good point there.

la bellina mammina said...

What was the word that you thought of then?

All your colleagues are really smart(you included obviously:-). I like the idea of planting something small at the start of the term and watch it grow as days go by...

Dumdad said...


The plant, the words - great ideas. The children are in good hands.

Salty Miss Jill said...

The power of a simple gesture: a smile, a hello, a compliment can be the high point of someone's day. Kindness is so underestimated, as is our own belief that we can make a matter how small. We're all in this together, after all.
Thank you for another great post. :)

I'm not always so salty, ya know. ;)

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

What a wonderful post, and Zack is damn hot! ;-)

kimy said...

deLIGHTful post....what a great exercise! thanks zach and YOU for sharing this wick-ed metaphor - yes, yes dd you were first with the wicked remark! ;0 but I it popped in my head too!

when you get a chance gary check the 9-4 post on the mouse. thanks for the inspiration! (I was such a little nerd - well still a nerd, just no longer little)

your kids will are gonna LOVE you! wick on! hope the first day w/ the new kiddos was all you hoped for!

WAT said...

Zack = hotness.

I'm such a perv I know.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a fantastic ritual with the plant. Awesomely wiccan (don't tell anyone). You know that's where that word comes from, wicca means to bend.

Very cool!

The Secret Garden is one of my all-time favorite books. My sister Karen read it aloud to me when I had the German measles. It's a truly great book.

Gary said...

La Bellina - I had not made up my mind but was probably going to go with Joy. That was until Zack came up with Wick and then that quickly became my word. After he 'presented' and everyone was impressed I called out, "That's my word too". It got a good laugh.

Dumdad - I like to think they are in good hands. I am happy that I am in a position to take care of them.

Miss Not So Salty - It is true and it also works in reverse. When I wait to hold a door for someone and they don't say "Thank You" it bothers me for hours. Isn't that silly? Little things do affect us.

J.DZ-S - I agree, Zack is really good looking with talent, charm and personality to match.

Kimy - As I write this my first day of the school year is behind me. It went very smoothly and I am looking forward to day #2. I will head over to your blog in a sec, can't wait.

Wat - See response to J.DZ-S above. Oh, and you are not a perv! :)

Reya - I did not know that! I can still see how that would fit with teaching.

The Secret Garden is a great story and can you believe that I did not know it until I saw the orignal Broadway production in 1991. On a side note, Linda Ronstadt wrote Winter Light for the movie.

Lynda said...

What a wonderful idea about the plant. I think Wick can apply
to not only young children, but to the senior population as well! Sometimes people don't look
behind the gray hair, wrinkled skin, wheel chairs and walkers.

Also, I must say your colleague Zack is very good looking! I'm sure he has a huge following of fans!

Gary said...

Lynda - You make a very good point!

Salty Miss Jill said...

I don't know if you're aware of this:
...a fantastic organization with lots of great ideas and lesson plans.

marxsny said...

I once heard Harvey Fierstein speak about how he didn't understand why he had to pay school taxes because he had no children and he felt he got no benefit from the taxes.

He said he came to realize that children are the future of the world so even though he had no children he accepted that he still had a responsibility to them.

Anyone who will be relying on the future of the world owes some responsibility to children. Education is one of the cornerstones their future is built upon and it must be revered.

Anyhoo, I guess this is where I'm supposed to say Zack is hot?

Gary said...

Salty - Thanks for the information. I was searching around at that website after I read your comment. There is a lesson about teaching tolerance and respectful behavior through fairy tales that seems interesting. I will add this link to my favorites. I appreciate the tip, thanks.

Mark - I guess with maturity comes a deeper appreciation and understanding that we can not be so egocentric (see Piaget and the developmental stages of young children) and learn to take others into our view. I even felt that way about taxes at one time - boy have times changed.

Anyhoo - that cracks me up!

Pod said...

i am trying hard to repress comments about zack and his wick.......
but i fear becoming a lumpy old pongo

what to do gary?

Gary said...

Pod - Ever clever!


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