The Suitcase Lady


September 5, 2017, 9:00 am

As a new school year starts, here is a true story about a little boy named Christopher who sat under the art room table. For readers who know me personally, note that this Christopher is not my son of that name.

For twenty years, I was the art teacher at a Montessori and Creative Arts school. We had morning and afternoon programs starting for children 2 1/2 years old and continuing through age 7 or kindergarten.

The school had a large room with Montessori equipment, a music and creative play room, a practical life room (where kids prepared their snacks and cleaned up after themselves) and an art room. The children were free to choose the areas they worked in. Most did a round robin of all the areas during their three hour school day.

Remembering the joy I found in color as a child, I painted my art room walls with vibrant colors and filled them with exciting art objects. Our art activities were equally colorful and intriguing…painting, sculpture, wood building, clay, print making and more.

Most of the children came bounding into the art room eager to try out the art materials. But, Christopher, age 2 1/2, would shyly poke his head around our open door and then retreat to the safety of a little rug and solitary work with the Montessori equipment such as the red rods, pink tower or sandpaper letters.

Then, after several weeks, Christopher ventured all the way into my art room, crawled under our big work table and sat down on the floor. He would stay there for 15 or 20 minutes and then silently leave.

At parent conferences my report on Christopher’s artistic activities was extremely concise…..”Christopher is taking in the art room from under the table.” His parents were loving and patient people and adopted a “let it be” attitude.

By the last parent conference in May, my report was identical to the first. Christopher remained an observer, not a participant, for the entire year. And no one panicked that he would never get into Harvard.

When school resumed in fall, Christopher was back. He immediately strolled into the art room, sat down on a chair and began drawing and painting delightful pictures and trying every project offered.

I recently ran into an acquaintance from those long ago days and inquired if she knew how Christopher was doing. “He’s thriving”, was her reply.

I’m not surprised. That little boy was given the time and space he needed to figure things out in his own way. A scenario like this would be hard to find in today’s world. All the little ones are kept too busy getting ready for their testing.

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