Lessons Taught by Blue Birds

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To remind us that teaching is about far more that testing….

There is a blue bird house outside our classroom window. A favorite pastime has been watching the continuous activity around it in the spring each year. The male is the first to appear, checking out the place to see if it is fit for raising a family. He is beautiful; the bright blue on his back would distract even the most focused student, and quite frequently does just that. Soon the beautifully muted female comes to inspect the premises. She flies her blue and rose-blush body into and out of the hole so many times I wonder if she is taking measurements. Finally it appears that she has decided this will be her new home.

ImageThe next days she is furiously working, bringing string, and straw, and any other nest-making materials to their abode. The male oversees the project, and stands guard to make sure the progress is not hijacked by the black sparrows that seem to be hanging around waiting to make their move. At one point the blue birds take on an entire flock of the circling birds. They work together in such unity it would seem they know one another’s thoughts. One dives, the other climbs. There is strategy in their movements; each knows the goal is to provide a diversion in order to keep the birds out of their nest. Their seamless dance works to perfection. The male, highly visible with his blue back, draws the black birds away while the female returns to the house to guard the nest. Once he gives the flock the slip he returns and there is joyful chatter both within the house and within the classroom.

ImageSoon the female seems to disappear. Only if you look closely can you see the shadow of her head in the little doorway of their house. The male comes and goes, checking on her repeatedly. He is very attentive during this phase, and because of his care she rarely leaves the nest. When the little voices begin their singing in a couple of weeks, the parents take turns bringing insects and whatever else baby birds eat. It seems to be constant between the two of them. It is amazing to watch how many trips those little birds take to care for their young. Again they work in tandem, as if it has been planned all along. The babies are never alone, and they are very well fed. To watch for any length of time brings sympathy of how tiring parenthood can be.

The excitement builds the closer the babies get to leaving the nest. Little faces with open beaks peek out of the hole to check out the big wide world, at the very same time little faces press to the glass to watch the small world outside the window.  The babies are not blue…not yet. They are gray and fuzzy. It is hard to make out exactly how many are inside, but as the days go by the little house seems to be cramped. Then one morning, they are out, on the ground under the house. The mother and father watching over them from a distance, fly from house to building, to tree…place to place to get the best view of their young.

ImageAs the little ones hop in the grass, the questions fly. How will they get back up to the house? What will they eat? Do their parents leave them there? Will they be safe? The answers? “Watch. You have to watch and see. Do not miss a detail. Keep your eyes open.” Then as if on cue, the babies hop-fly to our window sill! They sit on one side of the glass, the kids stand on the other. Quiet as mice as they check out the birds and the birds gaze at the kids. Their eyes meet and connection is made. It is magical. It is learning, and compassion, and understanding, and questioning, and reasoning, and enchantment, and silent excitement. The little ones are holding their collective breath even as their eyes sparkle with the joy of discovery…on both sides of the glass. There is no book. There is not a standard to meet, or a test to take. It is simplicity and innocence, and it is beautiful. Lessons taught by the blue birds.

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