I met a Montessori teacher from Seattle recently – we were both working on organizing a new teacher-training program in Canada. Right away I saw something familiar about her, although we had never met. I peered through my glasses and untamed hair at her glasses and untamed hair and had the feeling I was looking in a mirror. I have met alternate versions of myself before – usually crazy old teachers who take great joy in telling stories and seeing the sunlight filter in on children at work in a beautifully prepared classroom. We know all the weird shops and museums where we can get really cool stuff for our classrooms. We can sing a song on virtually any subject on command. And if we don’t know the song, we can make it up. We all appreciate art, music, theater, literature, science and nature and we seek out these things to renew ourselves when not teaching. My alter-selves and I meet at dinners and meetings and national conferences, often wearing the same odd jewelry or shoes. We swap stories on children and grandchildren and travels. We compare notes on students, staff, running a business smoothly and best practices. I’ve learned much from my alter-selves – each of us has something to share with the others. We’ve lived similar lives and had similar experiences. As a group we make up one nearly perfect communal being.
My new acquaintance began with “I have a house on Lake Washington” and I said, “I lived on Lake Washington when I was a child – I have fond memories of watching the boats sail by.” She nodded and continued with her story of coming to Washington. She mentioned her plan to explore the area and I commented on the beauty of each region.
Her background in teaching was very similar to mine. “I did the same thing,” I commented, “I spent many years at the early childhood level before infant/toddler.” She looked at me and said nothing. Later there was a conversation about teaching adults – she is also a teacher trainer at the infant/toddler level. We talked about texts and observations and strategies for preparing new teachers for the classroom.
I asked about her daughter – “She lives in San Francisco.” “I used to live there,” I began and then realized I was starting to sound like some kind of wannabe. We discussed the strategies of dressing for the weather, the fabulous cultural diversity and the wonderful Montessori schools in the bay area.
Over dinner a new person joined our group and introduced herself as a naturalist who had just been out bird watching. I had noticed all the bird watchers in the area and excitedly said, “I’m a bird watcher too, what are you seeing out there?” In the course of the answer my colleague looked at me sideways. I didn’t explain that I had been a biologist in my former life. “Ah, yes – I’ve seen the bald eagles, too.” I didn’t add that I helped a friend with his bald eagle study in Arizona years ago in graduate school and how crazy hard it is to hold onto a fledgling whose wingspan is about 5 feet. My job was to get bands on their legs, which I had done dozens of times with hawks, but I was sure my feet would lift off the ground as I struggled to band a nest full of eagle fledglings. I remember wondering, if we actually became air born over the cliff; could I hold on until the bird landed? There was definitely not an option of letting him go unbanded.
Suddenly one of my favorite soundtracks came on throughout the restaurant (“Eddie the Sheik Kochak’s Strictly Belly Dancing”) and a belly dancer appeared. I decided not to mention that I had once been a belly dancer, but it was all I could do to stay in my chair. When the dancer came to our table looking for someone to dance with I stayed firmly seated and supported the group in encouraging her to choose the director of the college, a dignified 71-year-old Chinese gentleman. And she did. And he did. It was delightful.
After dinner we went back to our hotel, where, as I ran into my twin from a parallel universe on the stairs and then proceeded down the same hall I found she was staying in the room next door to mine. Now I was sure she thought I was stalking her. So when we met at breakfast the next morning and she introduced her friend I tried hard to bite my tongue. She said, “I’d like you to meet my partner, Bruce.”
I couldn’t do it – I blurted, “I find everything about you to be quite familiar. In fact, my husband is also named Bruce.” And I turned abruptly and walked away before she could give me that curious look.
Although I found all of these coincidences to be increasingly amusing the other me did not laugh about it. She just looked as a child looks through a magnifying glass at a particularly odd bug. When we said goodbye later that day I said, “Somehow I think we’ll meet again.” “I think so,” she replied.
Duna Strachan BS AMS
Soaring Wings International Montessori School
Park City, Utah USA