Student Environmental Learning Facility
Updated: Oct 3, 2022
By Diana Mullins
In my open-concept public elementary school,
every internal wall moved on its track accordion-wise, creating customized space
aligning with teacherly visions and student needs.
Grouped in you-shaped threes and fours, fives and eights,
we listened and expressed, in soaring dialogues, scaffolded for high-yield, low-risk ventures.
Removable masking tape named our tote-trays after us,
but no one had a desk,
nor did a desk have any one of us.
I sat transfixed on the floor with everyone else
except for the slightly elevated teacher, just above us on a low stool.
I lament the loss of the low stool
and Mrs. Carrie Nolan who said,
The world depends on you, and pointed to us,
her kneecaps peeking out above her brown vinal boots, zipper-pulls dance-dangling.
With our flexible joints, we sat crossed-legged,
secure in place and valued,
grounded in equality, minds focused, when not monkeying around,
practicing addition and subtraction
and carrying the ones.
Then up we rose up to walk together and we listened to the calls in our aviary,
tended to the greens in our garden, fed and brushed and cared for the animals in the SELF.
When assembled in Golden View’s Toad Hall,
elbows rubbed elbows on carpeted steps of our school’s amphitheater.
No one was more important than anyone else,
except perhaps the kindergarteners.
With flat bellies and limber backs,
we tucked into child’s pose
hiding our eyes, while a rice-stuffed toad,
jumped onto one back:
The Citizen of the Month.
An act or two of humility
captured the golden toad’s attention. At the end of a handful of months it landed on me.
In my practices today, I attempt to return to the school of my youth.
I slide aside inner walls to create open space. I transform thoughts, accordion-style.
I try to add honesty and kindness. Subtract the ego. Not as bendable as once I was,
yet ready to carry on.
Diana Mullins is an author and editor who taught writing and theater arts in Maine and California. Her recent work appears in Ruminate Magazine. She was a poetry editor for Mud Season Review and her research on collaborative writing and revision practice was published by Harvard Education Press. Her childhood nickname, Spider Legs, in conjunction with her identity as a proud Toad, her elementary school’s mascot, prompted her to explore the differences between metonymy and metaphor at an early age. Learn more about her at www.DianaMullins.com and Twitter: @DianaMullins_