When Miss. Haverton decided to teach her second grade class about a country she had first hand experience with, I thought it was a wonderful idea as a home room mom, but what did I know?
My travels to places far away usually never cost me air fare but just time flipping through rabbit eared brochures and helping research information with our three children.
After weeks of preparation the taupe cement walls and desk filled classroom became alive with color and personality, Australian style. In one corner an overflowing of oversized plastic foliage poked their heads through makeshift trees that towered to the ceiling, while below stuffed animals and leathery creatures crawled and slithered , or at least in seven year old imaginations, and even in mine.
Evan, our son, stood in amazement and quickly joined the other excited students who were lined up against one wall. Miss. Haverton was clad in safari garb, her khaki Bermudas and animal print shirt, crisp and fresh as the lessons she taught. “Today children, we're going on a trip to the country we have been studying about.”
“It’s the land down udder.” piped up Gabe, who probably was recovering from a cold. “Yes,” she smiled at the eager boy and continued, “ and why is it called the land down under?” Gabe raised his hand again. “ It’s below the equader,” the stuff nosed reply shot out. Fortunately nothing else did.
“We will be touring all of the interesting areas, the rainforest,” she pointed, “the outback, and the Great Barrier Reef.” “For the rest of the month we will be visitors to another country, so I want each of you to keep your eyes and ears open, ask questions, and respect everything on your travels.” The children were mesmerized as they handed their tickets to me and proceeded to break up in centers.
While I assisted our group on their venture I realized that my lessons as a former student were no match for Miss. Haverton’s. As we played Name That, I quickly found out that the children knew a lot more about this land than I. Their laminated maps quickly filled up and matched the original I held in my hands.
Brisbane sounded like a name out of a wizard book and Melbourne I thought were cigarettes one of my college roommates use to smoke.
As the sights and sounds of a country rich in character filled our senses we couldn’t help but notice a tall hairy character with farm boots that waddled it’s way into the classroom. Soon all eyes were on the oversized kangaroo.
Miss Haverton seemed a bit surprised but talked briefly with the newcomer and held up a hand. “Children”, she began, “we have a visitor that is a well known animal in Australia. “”It’s not real,” interrupted a voice.
Miss Haverton chuckled. “We were unable to get an actual kangaroo for today but Gabe's grandfather has offered to come to pay us a visit.
As I brought the children to the Outback area to hear a story I noticed a peculiar smell, but dismissed it. “Ha, ma name is Misder Willums and we’re gonna lern ‘bout The Land Down Udder.” I quickly connected the dialect between grandfather and grandson and smiled. Maybe Gabe didn’t have a cold after all.
The gravelly voiced marsupial read a book, his strong southern drawl emphasizing each name of an animal and where they lived. Soon we were learning not only about marsupials and their habitat but monotremes and other creatures.
Before long the odor I had inhaled earlier now began to reek and the children were holding their noses, all but Gabe. “Ew,what’s that smell,” Katie, another student, asked plugging her nose. “Aw, that’s just grampa, he has a farm,” replied a proud Gabe.
“Thank you for coming,” the children’s prompted greeting filled the air as Mr. Williams began to leave.
Some of the children pointed and giggled as they saw a trail marking the floor and down the hall. Gabe smiled ear to ear, with pride, as Miss Waverton put an arm around him. “Thank you Gabe for allowing us the pleasure of hearing your grandfather’s story, we learned a lot.”
I looked out the window as the kangaroo wiped his brow with a bandana and began to gun the motor of the old pickup truck.
Yes. I thought to myself. Even this homeroom mom, in The Land Down Udder.