One of the plumb jobs in Mrs. Washburn’s second-grade class was cleaning the erasers. If you were chosen, a privilege that Tom Sawyer might have concocted, you gathered the sacred tools from the front of the classroom and ventured outside. You did not want to make the rookie mistake by clapping them together upwind of or too close to the classroom windows. To be sure, my classmates were notoriously unforgiving of anyone violating proper eraser-clapping etiquette. If you created a massive cloud of dust, you could walk tall for the rest of the school day. Much later, my 9th-grade math teacher, Mr. Bradley, used his sweater to clean the blackboard after some miscreants hid the easers—it wasn’t cool anymore to help our teachers.
A few mornings ago, as I walked onto campus through one of the Catalina gates, I saw chalk drawings everywhere. Little children must have lived here once, I thought. In fact, they had, and now they were back, loud and giggly and full of energy. They wanted to show me their rainboots and what they were having for a snack. With their masks on, I did not catch all of their observations, but that didn’t matter—just hearing their voices was plenty.
As I write this blog, we are closing in on nearly a year of mostly empty classrooms and a too quiet campus. I am hopeful that we are getting close to the time when these encounters with children won’t feel so rare. That same morning I saw the chalk drawings I came across a collection of over 350 hygiene kits that our lower school students had put together for Young and Healthy and Union Station. Many of the packets held a simple note: ”You are not alone.” Children were here, and we are never alone even when we can’t see them.