February 28, 2019, Brooklyn, NYC:
The Beech Class is walking down the path along Fort Greene Park as we do every week. We are on our way to visit the beech tree — our beech tree, our namesake. We will giggle while we echo Madeleine, “Hello beech tree! It’s good to see you! We missed you! You seem to be missing your leaves!” We will eat our snack, like we do every week, across the path from the beech tree. We will play, as we always do, around the beech tree…noticing animal homes, touching the tree’s rough bark and crunchy, fallen leaves. We will try to climb the trunk that is so wide, we can barely grasp it.
But when we arrive, there are gasps and shouts and tears. The beech tree is gone. The tree that the Beech Class has visited every week for four years – since the very first week of the very first Beech Class – is gone. In its place is a wide stump with a hollow middle, a pile of wood chips, and sawdust.
We regroup and march up to the park rangers’ station. Some children are shouting at the park rangers: “Why did you cut down the beech tree?! Why?! That’s so mean!” Other children are clinging to each other, sobbing inconsolably. Some children are stunned into silence. Madeleine and Rasha try to calm them enough to hear the rangers explain that the tree was sick, hollow on the inside, unsafe. The children aren’t ready to hear any of these logical explanations. They just want their tree back.
Facing Hard Times
Though the experience that the Beech Class encountered is highly unique, enduring difficult moments — as an educator, student, or community — is not.