You never really know what a 2nd grader will say next.
A couple of weeks ago I was teaching an indoor rock climbing class to a group of 2nd graders from St. Croix Montessori School from Stillwater, MN. I was immediately excited to teach a class of students this age, mainly because of their energy, curiosity, and their sense of wonder all the time. As they entered the climbing area in the Science Center, their excitement was obvious.
Looming over us at the top of the climbing wall was the Goat, a stuffed mountain goat complete with harness and climbing helmet. The Goat has been up there for years and a tradition has developed among many groups that whenever a climber makes it to the level of the goat they plant a big wet kiss on the Goat’s nose before being lowered back down. One of my 2nd grade students had heard of this tradition as well and when he roped up to climb he looked at me and said with a joking voice:
“I know the Goat is up there, but I think you are really the spirit of the Goat! Should I kiss the goat or should I kiss you?”
The only thing I could do was throw my head back and laugh. Do I look like a goat? Do I have a “goat-esque” personality? Although I was flattered that someone recognized “goat-like” characteristics in me, I reassured him that there was only one goat in the room and it was definitely not me. With that he jumped onto the rock and had a great time scrambling up the wall.
As I finished the class, still feeling a little self-conscious about what my best goat qualities are, I started to think about why that old goat is so important to students and campers and what really is his/her “spirit.” There are lots of climbing routes much more challenging than the route under the goat and dozens of climbers face and conquer challenges every day without coming near the goat, and yet the Goat is still a regular conversation topic during a rock climbing class. I think the true essence of the Goat is the spirit of setting a goal and striving for it. Sometimes we reach those goals and revel in our success, but more often we learn more during the journey and surprise ourselves when our true goal is completely different from what we originally reached for.
Keep reaching, and may the Goat be with you.