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GUEST COLUMN: Community's children promise a bright future

By: TODD TARBOX
May 16, 2018 Updated: May 16, 2018 at 6:00 am
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Two years ago, after decades in corporate harness-marketing products as esoteric and intangible as higher education to as mundane and corporeal as plumbing products - my wife, Shirley, and I relocated from suburban Chicago to Colorado Springs.

The change in location brought a change in direction: more time to smell the Dianthus, write what's on my mind rather than what's on the mind of clients, and occasionally spend time in classrooms that I left on daily basis five decades ago.

In recent months, I've been a guest teacher, working with young people from preschoolers to high schoolers in Colorado Springs helping three-year-olds discover the joy and accomplishment of building sand castles to assisting eighteen-year-olds make sense of calculus in a textbook and the calculus of their lives.

Returning to the classroom is a modest attempt to give my mite's worth back to a land that has provided me bountiful advantages and opportunities. I'm learning as much, if not far more, than I'm teaching.

There is much to learn from and share with the young, be it teasing out the politics and polemics in George Orwell's Animal Farm with high school students, to frolicking in a miniature animal farm on a rug in the midst of three and four-year-olds.

Though the questions and insights of high school and junior high students are typically more informed and articulate than those of their early elementary counterparts, the latter are no less curious and often far more candid, as was the case in a preschool classroom recently.

During snack time, after thanking me for helping her open a yogurt container, three-year-old Veronica looked at me, took a double take, and declared, "Mr. Tarbox, you know, you have an old face!" I laughed and agreed.

As I began walking to another table to assist a sprightly classmate, she added, "You need a new face!" Again, I concurred and asked Veronica, "How do I get a new face?!

Without a pause, she responded, "That's easy. Write a letter to the Tooth Fairy!"

A few days later, while spending an afternoon with another group of preschoolers, I received word that three of my opinion pieces published in these pages last year, didn't win this year's Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. While smarting from the prick of rejection, I walked to the painting corner, where eight animated artists were sharing their watercolor creations with one another and cleaning up.

After washing their brushes and before Grace and Robby placed their paintings on a drying rack, Grace asked me, "Do you like my painting of my mom and dad on the beach?"

It's difficult not delighting in children's bright, imaginative art; Grace's painting was no exception.

"I do! I do!" I exclaimed with genuine enthusiasm.

"Do you have a mom and dad?" Grace inquired.

"I did," I answered. "But they died."

Gazing at me with a concerned expression, she responded softly, "Don't be sad! Robby and I will be your parents!"

At that magical moment, I realized there are far more important prizes in life than a Pulitzer.

Among the myriad benefits of working with the young is being allowed to glimpse into the future.

From what I'm observing in Colorado Springs classrooms, the community's future looks exceedingly bright.

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Todd Tarbox, author of several books including "Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts," lives in Colorado Springs.

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