I’ve got a turtle in my classroom. She’s 25 years old and will outlive me. She likes to climb things, even though she’s not built for it. She falls a lot but it never stops her. Once, earlier in her life, someone tried to drill a hole in her shell, maybe to flag her so they wouldn’t lose her in the grass… It must have hurt. They probably thought she couldn’t feel it. Maybe they never had the opportunity to get to know her so they didn’t understand. Sometimes children forget that she can’t see them properly and they try to pat her face. It’s probably terrifying. She always comes back out though. Game face on, ready to forgive, adapt, and continue with her investigation, carefully negotiating her next obstacle; balanced, careful, determined.
This turtle in my classroom is the perfect educator. She invites imagination. She lives in a place of possibility. She’s got no ulterior motives and you can’t help but trust her because she keeps trusting you. She’s a portal to the beauty of the physical world for children and an outlet for their fundamental need to care for something. She’s changed our classroom. We’re better people because she’s part of it. Sometimes, powerful pedagogy is surprising simple.
Poem excerpt from R. Duncan’s 1954 “The Horse”