Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers
We took our Junior National Honors Society kids on their annual holiday service trip today – a crisp, beautiful day. We had juice and snacks for 250 pre-schoolers at a Head Start program in a town but twenty minutes away – not far as the crow flies, but another world nonetheless. Our kids were excited (a morning away from school, lunch on the way back, a sense of having done something worthwhile – what more could eighth graders hope for?), and somewhat prepared. On the way over, we described Head Start – its intent, the how’s and whys of its existence. Our kids listened…but not really.
The trip over was an education in itself; I heard many of our kids commenting on the neighborhoods we were driving through – boarded up buildings, vacant lots filled with debris, old mills standing desolate and dreary – so very different from the leafy little town with lovely well-tended homes we had set off from. Ours kids gazed out the windows, thoughtfully taking in what they saw, processing all this visual information. They were rather subdued as we left the bus and headed in, but there is something about a bustling pre-school – tiny furniture, gaily decorated walls of alphabet and number arts and crafts, blocks and playthings and picture books stacked in baskets – that lifts the spirit. And, we could hear the children, singing along to the holiday show – sweet voices floating merrily through the walls and stairwells. We set out snacks and waited for them to join us.
Soon, the hallways were full of little ones pitter pattering excitedly to their classrooms…and then we were beyond busy helping, snacking, chatting and playing. As I moved from classroom to classroom, I saw our kids learning how to interact with children whose lives were very different – they had to really listen, to encourage, to move past their own limited experiences to connect (even if briefly) with these little ones. Before too long, they had done exactly that.
I made my rounds as well, building Lego bridges, making playdough pizzas and playing house. Towards the end of our visit, I sat next to a little guy deep into his building project. We figured out how to connect his two structures, and then he noticed the Band Aid around my thumb – the result of an early morning encounter with the can opener – and wanted to know everything about the wound. Did it hurt? Was there a lot of blood? Did I cry? After I had answered to his satisfaction, he nodded quietly, patted my arm and said, “I got a boo boo too,” then rolled back his sleeve to show me a long, deep scratch. How did that happen I asked, knowing the answer already, somehow. “Mommy,” he said, and then shrugged. I looked up and caught the eye of his teacher, who also shrugged. And then we went back to our building project, neither one of us quite knowing what else to say.