by John Colgan-Davis

As those of you who have been reading these articles for a while know, I am a teacher, and I have recently gone to part-time status. After full-time teaching for 40 years, this has been a serious change to my routines and approach to time. My schedule is flexible, so there is at least one day a week in which I can do some early morning walking for 45 minutes or so. That is just delightful. I love being up and about as night gives way to day and watching that transition happen.

At times it has also been strange to have so much unstructured time; I am not used to that, and it can feel weird. But it has also brought some pleasant surprises to my life, and one of them happens outside my window on those days when I do not have to be at work until later in the day. A number of young families have moved into the neighborhood, and there are now the sounds of young kids echoing up and down the streets.

I love that sound, and I get to experience it directly because there is a school bus stop at the corner in front of our house. And as I sit in my study working, I can hear the joyous racket of about 10 elementary school-age kids waiting for the bus with their parents. The energy is infectious as they are excitedly talking about what they saw on TV the night before or the last Eagles game or the song they heard or something neat they did in school or are looking forward to doing that day.

That energy is pure, unfiltered and infectious, and it reminds me of my excitement about going to school when I was that age. It is great to eavesdrop on their joy and to seriously hope that they can hold on to that as they go through the educational process.

All this, of course, has led me to think about my own elementary school days. I was fortunate. I had great teachers who made learning interesting and fun and who encouraged the kid with the stutter and the inquisitive mind. I also had a mother who supported my educational efforts and took delight in what her kids were doing in school. And I get to hear that, too, as the parents excitedly engage both the kids and each other. This is not a “chore” for them; it is quality time with their kids. It is wonderful to hear.

I grew up in the time of neighborhood schools. We walked five blocks to Dunlap Elementary School, so the idea of waiting at a corner for the school bus was not in my background. But overhearing these conversations has been a delight, and I am now aware of how rich an experience waiting with your kids can be. And I love it when the bus comes, and the corner rings out with cries of “Love you, dad!” and “See you tonight, mom!” and “Do a great job on your presentation.”

It is great to hear that there is still excitement in many of the kids and hope and joy in many of the parents. And maybe, just maybe that hope and that joy can be maintained. From the vantage point of my study, I cross my fingers and hope and pray that it will be. I teach students who for the most part still have that energy and that joy, that sense of possibility. It is glorious to see and experience. And I wish that for all kids and for all schools.

John Colgan-Davis is a long-time Mt. Airy resident, a teacher (now part-time) and the harmonica player for the rockin’ blues band, Dukes of Destiny.