birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Commonplace Magic

The first job that counts was the one I had in college and graduate school at a nearby elementary Waldorf school in the Steiner tradition, preschool-8th grade. I absolutely loved that job and would still be there if it had paid a little more. As a sliding-scale tuition-funded private school with no external funding, full-time faculty barely made enough to live, let alone part time employees. Most full-time faculty were retired or married to high-earning spouses so could afford to do the work out of sheer love for the philosophy.

I was hired first as an extended care teacher in the preschool, their term for an after school program, and then later worked as a substitute in many of the other grades. The philosophy of the school was attractive to me, and the energy in the school was comforting and tingly--like a living ASMR studio.

The kids in the older grades created their own textbooks, and teachers spent hours drawing masterpieces on the chalkboards. The preschool was stocked with natural fibers: felted wool and silk cloths, smooth wooden blocks, simple, featureless dolls made of fabric and yarn. We started the afternoon with sing-song circle time, spent much of the day outside playing in the tree stump and flower-strewn play area, and cooked natural snacks on a hob right in the classroom: brown rice and steamed carrots, whole grain crackers and cheese, oatmeal with fresh fruit. Eventually, we had to stop that practice because of some code violation or another, but I thought it very rustic and romantic.

There was very little technology in the school, and teachers were encouraged to perform chores within sight of the children, so that they could witness and join in with the meaningful work: washing dishes out doors on a picnic table, sweeping the floors, knitting or sewing.

It was there I fell in love with the curious intelligence of 4 year olds, the magic that lives in a leaf, a bird's nest, a rock in the shape of an egg. These children who spent more of their time outdoors or imagining with plain toys seemed to have discovered a commonplace magic that our tech-heavy world seemed to have forgotten. It was heartening to see these children who interacted with the world and one another with a loving kindness that adults have to work hard to cultivate.

Scarred, not Scarred

Babysitting in My Teens