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Here’s to You, Mr. Higgins

I’m standing in the entryway of my classroom. The space is awash in scraps of colored tissue paper, the tables strewn with scissors, glue sticks, pipe cleaners, pencils and crayons. Think: your kid’s bedroom to the 10 th power. Children stand or sit at the tables fashioning these materials into long-stemmed flowers vaguely resembling lilies. There’s an unceasing hum of young voices like the buzz of bees at work.

We’re making a class bouquet for our school principal, a kind, committed, hyperkinetic professional who gets things done and is always on the run. It’s his birthday or some such celebratory occasion and he’ll make the rounds of all the classrooms later in the week to receive cards and gifts from his grateful staff and student body. All this has been arranged by the officious woman in charge of school-wide discipline who keeps us all — students and teachers alike

—on the straight and narrow.

From my vantage point, I take in the peaceful chaos and glance at the clock. We have fifteen minutes to clean this room, collect our belongings, and don our outdoor clothes. Then, we’ll head down the long corridor to the busses, those bright yellow, smelly, behemoths that will carry the students away and leave the halls silent and empty.

I ring the chimes, announce clean up time, and begin to put away the mess from my own flower making efforts. The children follow — scissors and pencils are collected, kids scramble under tables for paper scraps and stray crayons. I gather the finished flowers into a bouquet around which I will tie a red ribbon.

Mr. Higgins will arrive the following afternoon as we are gathered in the circle for read aloud. I’ll present him with the bouquet of paper flowers and a card we made earlier in the week. On it is each child’s drawing of our esteemed principal, all uniformly attired in black trousers, oxford shirt, and any one of a vast collection of jaunty bow ties. Upon receiving our offerings, the principal will

gratefully accept the bouquet of the flowers and chuckle at his likenesses on the


Only one child will comment on the tears glistening behind Mr. Higgins’ wire-rimmed glasses.


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