Naptime in the Pre-K room. Short by one teacher so I am helping out. A pack of three, four, and five year olds do not want to sleep. They want to be read to, talked to, laughed with. Sleep is not on their list. But the teacher and I persist. Naptime is non-negotiable.
Five minutes later all but three kids are down and drifting toward eyes-closed innocence. I hear a couple of tiny snores. Marcus, one of three, becomes my project as the teacher takes on the other two.
Marcus squirms on his cot and peeks out from under his long dreads. I read to him but what he really wants to do is tell me he’s five. He wants to slap a drum beat on his belly, and bounce on his cot. I convince him to close his eyes, telling him it’s a game, and I say I’m going to tell him a story.
We have a little discussion about the world inside his head where he can open his “inside eyes” and see all kinds of things he can’t see in the outside world. He says he knows all about that place. He tells me he wants to fly way up and then he covers his eyes. I ask him whether he can see the seagull flying to his left or the pelican flying to his right or the bay below where he might also see the reflection of his three-foot frame skimming the water’s surface.
He shifts and gets still. I tell him to fly higher and tell me what he sees. It’s at this point that he says he sees his daddy. He then tells me his daddy is dead but when he comes up here, the two of them can talk, see one another, and be friends.
I had not expected that nap time would take this kind of a turn and I find myself getting very quiet, letting him be and getting the sense that I am standing inside of a sacred place. I have been in the classroom no more than twenty minutes but I have a sense that I have stepped outside of time. I look across the room at fifteen napping kids, the teacher gives me a nod and I slip out the door and back onto the playground.
Later, still quiet on the inside, I am seated in a different room crowded with other principals. We are watching PowerPoint slides that cast a blue tint onto our upturned faces. The charts contain data about kids who are not making gains in academics and who seem to be stuck, falling further behind with each new school year.
The experts speaking to us have their points organized in clipped sentences, arranged in bulleted lists, set up to fit within ten agenda minutes. I am in my seat with my outside eyes wide open. Through the window, I see a grade-school child kicking a red ball against a concrete wall. The minute hand on the room’s big clock skips a notch past the ten and moves that much closer to the twelve.
Just a day, just this day, just one little sacred day.