It was late Autumn. The time of the year when you are unsure if the winter coat or the hooded sweatshirt will do. I had been teaching first grade at Sharon School for two or three years. This year I had the pleasure and honor of co-teaching part of my day with a Special Education teacher. We would share the responsibility of teaching nineteen kids that year, four who needed some extra help. One of those boys was "John". On top of needing some extra help, John was medically fragile. He also started the school year afraid of bugs. He would fixate on any bug that he would see in the classroom - a single crawling ant, a fly zipping around. They all were a distraction.
By late Autumn, the windows in the classroom were mostly shut and the presence of bugs became less of an issue. John actually began to show an interest in looking at them through the window, especially when they got stuck between the screen and the glass. He seemed to be getting over his fear. That is what was on my mind one morning as I stepped out of my house with my son on our way to school. There, on my welcome mat lay a dragonfly. It had beautiful iridescent purple wings and a body that stretched at least four inches. As my son and I admired it, it lay perfectly still. Ean gave it a little poke with his shoe, and still no movement. We agreed that it had died now that the weather had turned cold. I went inside and got a clear plastic container. If John was able to look through the windows at bugs, maybe he would be ready to see one in a sealed container. Ean and I cautiously picked up the dragonfly - still no movement - dropped it into the container, sealed it up, and went off to school.
That morning started just like all other mornings with my kids. As they came into the classroom my colleague and I greeted each one, and listened to them chatter with us and each other about events that happened either that morning or the night before. They unpacked their backpacks, and right after the Pledge of Allegiance everyone settled on the carpet for Morning Meeting. I casually pulled John aside and told him what I was going to share with the class. He seemed comfortable and curious, however I did tell him that during our share if he wanted to leave the circle he was more than welcome. My colleague and I were both pleasantly surprised at John's reaction to this activity. It was a big step for him to face some of his fears.
After we greeted around the circle, I explained to the kids what my son and I had found that morning. John was happy that he had a heads up to the story and told his friends that the dragonfly was dead. As we passed the sealed container we discussed why the dragonfly might have died, what they eat, and a myriad of other questions and "supposes". I could see that the kids were having a bit of trouble seeing the dragonfly as some condensation built up in the container. One girl suggested we take the lid off so we could see better. I looked at John and he seemed apprehensive. I agreed to that idea but I told the group if they felt scared at any point, they could say "no thank you" to looking at the dragonfly and/or step away. Everyone agreed. John smiled.
I opened the container and handed it to the boy seated three kids to the right of John.
And that is when time stood still.
As the boy peered inside the container I could see the dragonfly wings start to vibrate. I looked at my colleague, we both looked at John, and before I had the chance to lean forward and grab the container, the dragonfly began to fly. It flew out of the container, three kids to its left and landed on John's arm.
John screamed, the boy who was holding the container screamed - actually all the kids screamed. All nineteen kids went running in different directions, and in the midst of the chaos, the dragonfly flew out the classroom door.
It took about ten minutes to get everyone settled again. There were tears, some laughter, and a lot of disbelief. My colleague took John to the nurse's office to calm down and get checked out. We began talking about what happened and the kids became worried about the dragonfly. So we set out into the hallway with our container, the lid, and some new guidelines. We were going to try to catch the dragonfly in order to release it outside. It was scared and screaming at it would scare it more. Plus screaming in the hallway would definitely disturb the other learners in our school. We practiced holding our hands over our mouths to keep the screams in. By the time we got lined up, and silently into the hallway, John had rejoined our group. He eagerly went to the end of the line in order to have limited participation in catching the dragonfly. Luckily our insect friend was sitting on a piece of artwork just outside our door. Very quietly and carefully I was able to coax the dragonfly into the container, and of course I shut the lid - tightly.
After some whispered discussion, we decided to release our dragonfly onto the playground. We went outside and sat in a big circle, similar to what we had done for Morning Meeting only a few minutes earlier. This time I placed the container in the middle of the circle, took off the lid, and joined my kids and my colleague on the grass. We waited. We watched. And then, slowly as if we were regaining its trust, the dragonfly lifted itself up, and flew away.
We were quiet for a moment. I instinctively knew that the math lesson that I had so meticulously planned for that day was just going to have to wait. We trudged back to our classroom and wrote a story about the time a dragonfly got loose in our classroom. John volunteered the first sentence. "One time Mrs. Dauer brought a dead dragonfly to school to share with us."...