Don’t Worry, This Won’t Last All Year
Updated: Apr 11, 2022
By Kelsey Francis
The field was a sea of goose shit. Every day, dozens and dozens of Canada geese fed on the thick, end-of-summer grass. When we entered the school each morning, we could hear their distinct honking overhead. It felt like a warning. Giant flocks were headed to the high school track and soccer fields, ready for an end of summer feeding frenzy. And every day at lunch, we brought our students outside to eat among the geese and their piles of shit. Don’t worry, we told them, this won’t last all year.
As long as the weather cooperated, we took the students outside for lunch to eat on the field inside the track. There, six feet apart, in the safety of the shit-filled squares marked off with tiny bright orange cones, students could take off their masks and eat. They could talk to one another between bites of cafeteria pizza and burritos. They drank chocolate milk from tiny cartons and scrolled through TikTok on their phones.
The weather cooperated for the entire month of September.
After students finished eating, we told them to put their masks back on and walk six feet apart around the track. It was lap time until they returned to their black boxes on a screen. Sometimes the geese waddled around the track just ahead of us, leaving a trail of shit in their path. We watched the students make games of dodging the piles—counting, leap-frogging, and zig zagging—protecting their fresh-out-of-the-box new sneakers.
“Is it safe to eat lunch surrounded by all this goose poop?” A student once asked. We didn’t have an answer, so we laughed instead.
There were updates, sometimes multiple times a day, from heads of centers and departments and agencies and committees and unions.
It was the season of announcements and guidance and updates and emails. It was the season of goose shit.
We were told to be positive, inspiring, and upbeat because that is what teachers do. Teachers work magic. We were told, Don’t worry, this won’t last all year.
So, every day at lunch in September, we sawed our way out of virtual boxes, pulled invisible rabbits out of invisible hats and commented about the leaves changing from green to gold. We asked our students if they had finished their U.S. History homework and told them we liked their new sneakers. And we meant it.
They ate lunch in a field thick with end-of-summer grass clippings and thick piles of goose shit and we told them what all those with magical powers wanted to believe. Don’t worry, this won’t last all year.
We told them a lie we wanted to believe.
Kelsey Francis is a teacher living and writing in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Her essays have appeared in Adirondack Life Magazine, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She can be found on Twitter @ADK_Kelsey.