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Summer Vacation? Well…

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Some of the nicest gifts I've ever received. Thanks, kids! You all rocked!

This spring, I was given the awesome opportunity to share Aloha with school kids here in NYC.  And yesterday, I finished my final session at the last school.

Backstory: Midori & Friends, a non-profit music education organization, placed me in FIVE elementary schools over the past few months.  Some residencies lasted two weeks.  Others lasted as long as nine weeks!  There was a period that I was working with four schools at the same time!  (Please click HERE and HERE to read about some of my adventures in the schools.)

It was Heaven.  It was really hard.  But mostly, it was Heaven.

This morning, I woke up and my brain was still on autopilot.

As my eyes tried to adjust to the light in the kitchen while I made coffee, I began the daily ritual of going through my mental TO DO list for the day.  Which school was I heading to today?  What time I would need to get on the subway in order to arrive on time.   Where had we left off in our last session?  What things would I need to pack in my “Amazing Hawaiian Bag” so that we’d be ready to start, again, today.

And then it dawned on me:  I don’t need to report to a school today.

Summer vacation is here?  Is that possible?


With a cuppa Joe in my hand,  I headed out to my desk.

Again, I asked myself: Am I on summer break?

Not really.  I have all sorts of projects/items on a standing TO DO list that have been waiting patiently for me to finish up my work with the schools so that I could take care of ‘em.

Panic gripped my chest as I thought about all of the things that had been piling up.  What started out as simple things now appeared as monsters–threatening to swallow me alive.

As Anne Lamott reminds writers, we tackle big tasks “bird by bird.”  One thing at a time…

Beside me lay a huge canvas tote bag–my Amazing Hawaiian Bag–stuffed to the top with all sorts of things: songbooks, my pū/conch shell trumpet, hula implements, different varieties of lei, a kīhei and all sorts of other things buried in the pockets.  Things that had been collecting over the past months.

A great place to start!  I would unpack my the Amazing Hawaiian Bag and put the items away until the next residency begins in the new school year.

The first thing I pulled out was a pile of papers that had been given to me by the students yesterday. They are 3rd graders who are really concentrating on their writing skills.  They’d written me the most beautiful, heartfelt letters describing their favorite parts about our time together.

I started reading one.  And then another.  And then another.

And I cried.

Not a weepy, sorrow-filled tear session.  I cried because of their beautiful words.

Then I told myself to “get a grip!” and pushed the pile of letters aside.

I reached further into the bag and pulled out the seashell lei that one of the classes had made for me. (Again, stinging eyes from potential tears.)

I went to put the items in my bedroom and came across a book of photos and drawings that the kids at another school had made for me.

And that was beside a pile of cards and drawings that yet another group of students had made for me.

I took that as a sign.

I carried everything the kids had made for me out to the kitchen table.  I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee.  And I sat and read through their words and was amazed by their drawings and photos.

I surrounded myself in the lei of Aloha that they’d given me.

I’ll tackle the rest of the unpacking of that “amazing Hawaiian bag” tomorrow.

Today I’m just taking it all in.

And I’m filled with gratitude.

Mahalo, thank you, to the kids and the teachers and the schools for an amazing spring session of residencies.

Mahalo for the laughter!

Mahalo for teaching me how to be a better teacher.

Mahalo for joining me in the planting of some seeds of Hawaiian culture here in NYC.

6 Responses to “Summer Vacation? Well…”

  1. NoHo says:

    Ahhh, lovely story. Bird by bird. Win win. Both the crooner and the kids, changed forever. For better.
    Marinate in it, crooner. Marinate.

  2. Jason Poole says:

    Mahalo for that, NoHo. Those kids are the greatest teachers in the world. I learned a ton from them. And it’s a blast sharing Hawaiian culture with them. Like little sponges!

  3. Clare says:

    Makes me happy to think of you happy weepy receiving the gratitude of students! Hope it gives you tons of energy and aloha to give back to Molokai! I wonder what those kids will take back to their families…..hmmmm.

  4. Jason Poole says:

    Ha! Thanks for that, Clare! I love that word combination: happy weepy. Awesome. Yes–it recharges me for the upcoming Molokai trip, for sure! Can’t wait to tell ‘em all about these amazing kids and what’s happening in the schools here in NYC. Planting seeds… Planting seeds…

  5. Nicole Thibadeaux says:

    Jason, some say that “those that can’t do, teach.” In reality, as you know, those who most want to learn, teach.

    We often forget that we need closure for the good stuff in life as well as the bad stuff. Good for you that you were able to recognize that and take the time to close. Now you are ready to open again.


  6. Jason Poole says:

    Mahalo for the encouragement, Nicole!
    Still learnin’ ’til the day I day…