Water

The fourth grade teacher in the Spanish / English dual immersion school asks me to review the science text with the students in English—they’ve already learned it in Spanish—while she tends to other things. “I’m not here,” she proclaims with the certainty of someone who does not wish to be disturbed, and heads to the back of the room.

The topic: water. But I can’t understand how the text can make it so, well…dry.

Water covers most of the Earth. Most of the Earth’s fresh water is contained in glaciers. Glaciers are on every continent, even Africa, and isn’t that something! And if the glaciers happened to melt, the sea levels would rise, and then we sure would be in trouble.

I stop reading. “Do you guys know this is actually happening right now?” I ask them. “You know about global warming, right?”

They look back at me with a vague glimmer of recognition in their eyes.

“The Earth’s temperatures are getting warmer, and it’s causing the glaciers to melt. Yes, there are still snows on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, but they’re melting quickly and will be gone soon.”

I glance back nervously at the back of the classroom. I’m deviating from my assignment and hope the teacher doesn’t mind.

“What will happen when the sea levels rise?” one of the kids wants to know. “Will it come toward us?”

“We’re not near an ocean,” I tell them, “so we should be protected from the rising waters. But there will be other effects. In fifty years, the experts say Minneapolis will have a climate that’s more like Washington, D.C.”

“And Florida may be totally underwater,” adds the teacher, emerging from the back of the room, unable to stay away. “It’s on the ocean and very low.”

“New York City, too,” I say. “And there are some islands in the Pacific Ocean that are already going underwater.”

“I like how you’re stopping to go over things with them,” the teacher tells me. To the class, she announces, “This is exactly what a good teacher does.”

A good teacher? Me?