The Fallen Poppy

 The hustle and bustle of a new school day is upon us. The first day back from a long weekend is always hectic. 

To make things worse the bells weren’t working this morning due to a dreaded technological glitch. There goes the normal routine.

The teachers were late, the students were late, everyone was late.  A few students had already arrived to class, they were sitting quietly.

You see I travel, I don’t have my own classroom, I teach out of another teacher’s classroom all day.

You could say I’m the traveling man, I teach out of a cart, and that’s perfectly ok by me, I love it.

Whispers of a certain firing could be heard throughout the halls this morning. 

A Grade 12 couple who always share the morning together in the class where I teach Period 1 were talking about Don Cherry. 

The teacher from the class I teach out of for Period 1 was talking about Don Cherry.

Earlier today the librarian and I were gathered around the photocopier talking about Don Cherry.

Each of us had our own take, our own opinion, our own perspective. The loud attention grabbing ding of the intercom sounded.  “The bells aren’t working this morning, students please go to Period 1” 

Thirty seconds before the announcement a student in the back of the class asked me a question, a question that I couldn’t answer. 

“Mr. Eagles what do you think of Don Cherry being fired?”

The students started filing in, everyone is late, everyone was in a hurry.

I quickly explained to the student over the normal ruffling of desks and chairs being moved that I had met Mr. Cherry on two occasions. 

I went on to tell him that I couldn’t answer that question. 

You see that’s the first thing they teach you when you’re taking your Education degree. 

“You have to be neutral.”

“As a teacher, you can’t have an opinion.” 

Those two phrases are entrenched in my mind, my teaching DNA. As I’m searching for the words, to manoeuvre around, I choose my words very carefully. I choose my words cautiously. I end up saying that I just can’t answer the question.

Ding, ‘please stand for the playing of our national anthem rang out over the school airways.’ 

Saved by the bell.

The halls were still jammed pack with students, I quickly approach the door and stand in the hallway to ensure the students are at attention. 

As the anthem starts, one student is trying to open her locker, I clear my throat to get her attention, she smiles and stands at attention. 

Three students at the end of the hall come up the stairs, they didn’t hear the intercom, they don’t hear the song. 

I raise my left hand as a stop sign, they eventually stop and stand still, after sharing an immature giggle. 

A few whispers can be heard throughout the halls during the anthem, which drives me crazy, but today isn’t the usual routine, I let it pass, but it still bothers me. 

The anthem ends, I turn quickly to look into my class, they are taking their seats, I focus my attention to the right and look down the hall.

Students are rushing to class and a few are going to the washroom. 

Suddenly, I see a poppy on the floor. 

It must have fallen off of a jacket or book bag or maybe it was in someone’s locker and fell out.  

The hustle and bustle of the morning routine continued.

Four students heading to the bathroom stepped directly over and around the poppy. I wanted to scream, my inner voice was yelling, ‘please pick it up, please pick it up.’

Another student sees it, they made eye contact with it, but they step over it. 

It’s just a few seconds, but it seems like an eternality for me, I quickly approach the fallen poppy and pick it up, the hallways are finally starting to clear.

The teacher across the hall is staring down the corridor, my eyes lock with his, I couldn’t say anything, I’m speechless, no words, there are just no words. 

My inner dialogue rages as I approach the classroom, why didn’t they stop? why didn’t they pick it up?

I turn the sharp corner and enter the class, by this time all the students are looking at me and the fallen poppy in my right hand. 

As teachers we can’t share our opinion, we have to stay neutral. However, as teachers our search for teachable moments often come naturally.

Before introducing a new project, I share my thoughts on Remembrance Day, and what the poppy symbolizes. I tell them what just happened in the hall. I go on to praise them for being well behaved at our Remembrance Day Assembly last Thursday morning. 

I tell them about the article I wrote yesterday and how powerful I thought our student messages were. 

I told them what we did yesterday as a family, I told them how my daughters stood at attention, and asked tons of questions watching the Remembrance Day ceremony on television. 

It’s November 12th, the first day after a long weekend, the normal hustle and bustle of day is upon us.

It’s Period 2 and a student just asked me about Don Cherry. 

The normal hustle and bustle of the morning suddenly slows down as I tell them about the fallen poppy.

We are all back following the normal routine of the day, but we should never forget the sacrifices they all made.

Lest We Forget. 

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