The Stinger and the Honey, and the Bitter and the Sweet

Preschool teachers have the honor of experiencing many sweet firsts in a very young child’s life. For some of them, it is the first time they are being cared for by someone other than a parent or a relative, and we are honored to earn their trust and love. As a preschool teacher,  you may also witness the first time a child stands at an easel, brandishing one, sometimes two paintbrushes, to combine blue and yellow to make a green, refrigerator-worthy masterpiece.

And even still, you can be with a child the first time they go potty in a place that isn’t in their own home.

Unfortunately, there are a few bitter firsts that come up from time to time. Today, a little boy in was stung in the classroom while he was building blocks with his friends.  The bee entered the classroom most likely through our open window on this warm October day.  I am sure that bee did not want to be in the classroom, just as much as the children (and teachers) wanted it out of the classroom.

But our little student indeed got stung. At first he bawled and held up his finger, so we quickly checked for a stinger (no stinger), checked for visible signs of an allergic reaction (because you never know if a child is allergic to bee stings until they are stung), and ran his finger under a stream of cold water.  A few minutes went by before we realized that he had been stung a second time, this time with the stinger in tact, on the back of his neck.

He cried for his mom as we removed the stinger, iced his neck, and tried to soothe him. At the same time, we had to keep seven other kids happy and calm, so we called in another teacher for reinforcement.

Then a very unexpectedly sweet thing happened. I must interrupt my story to tell you that we were pretty late in setting up for snack before the whole sting operation went down. It had been raining all week and this was the first day we had a chance to play outside. By the time we returned to the classroom after an extended time playing outdoors, snacktime was overdue.

 Have you been around three and four-year-old children waiting for a snack?

But these little people did not complain their snack was late. One by one, they went over to their stung friend, who was now sucking his thumb sitting on my co-teacher’s lap, and gave him a hug to feel better. The boy calmed down, and was completely recovered within the next ten minutes thanks to the healing magic of crackers and juice.  

Do you recall the first time you were stung by a bee? I hope that it was not too unpleasant a memory and it didn’t give you hives or require an epipen shot or a trip to the emergency room.  

Over snack, I told my friend the very first time I was stung:

 I was about seven and a wasp and I collided as I ran from my back yard to my front stoop. Right on my neck, just like my little friend.

 I remember me screaming and my grandfather picking me up and carrying me to the backyard, where my mother quickly applied some ice – and a pumice made of salt and meat tenderizer.

After the surprise and the shock, I was actually pretty insulted that a bee – a creature of the natural world that I loved – would sting me. Didn’t the bee love me back, I asked my parents and grandparents through the tears?

The impression the boy took away from this story, as told by his mom was that Morah Stacy (that’s me — Morah is teacher in Hebrew) doesn’t like bees.

My little friend, that’s just not true at all.

It took me a while – deacades perhaps — to get over my fear and develop an appreciation and love of bees. I’m not saying I will become a beekeeper, like many people are doing these days to thwart off the devastation of bee colony collapse.  It’s just that since I have become an avid gardener, I am content to work right beside those bees happily buzzing and collecting nectar and pollen for their hives.

And I’ve come to appreciate how much we rely on these creatures for our food and think how scary it is that in recent years, the US bee populations have decreased by almost 40 percent. And as much as my little students are afraid of bees, it’s scarier to think about what will happen to their world and future without them.

There is a famous Israeli folk song that in English goes: like the bee that brings the honey, needs a stinger to compete, so our children learn to use the bitter with the sweet.

Next time you go to swat a bee, please think twice.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

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