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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Aren't Kids Cute

"Did you hug your girlfriend?"
"Did you kiss your girlfriend?"
"Where did you kiss her, on the cheek or on the mouth?"
"On the cheek and on the mouth."
"Did you take your girlfriend's shirt off?"

What? You are not supposed to be asking a question like that! You are six years old!

Every Monday afternoon (and Tuesday morning if we don't finish Monday), the students have a chance to talk about their weekends. This has evolved this year in ways that I did not expect. Each child has a turn at the front of the classroom, and as the year has gone on, the activity has become a favorite. The kids ask each other question after question, and it is obvious that they have a real interest in what their friends are doing outside of school.

After all the students have a turn, they ask my co-teacher what she did. Then they ask me. Every week I get questions about hugging and kissing my girlfriend. Yesterday, I was asked about taking her shirt off. I brushed off the question in a way that I hope will not encourage the children to ask other such questions. I guess I should be glad the year is almost over - before too long maybe they'd be asking if I put my thingy in her down there. I don't think I could handle that.

Yesterday we practiced our graduation show one more time. This time we practice the whole ceremony, from beginning to end. The ceremony begins with the graduation children coming onto the stage and welcoming their parents with a song. They receive a flower from the children who are in level two classes, and then they leave the stage. Each class then has a turn to give a performance. After the performances, the graduates return to the stage to receive their "diplomas." Following this, the teachers say a good bye. This is where things got fun yesterday.

My co-teacher started crying two sentences into her speech. It took her awhile to regain some composure. Behind us, one of the little girls in our class - the same one who asked me about taking off my girlfriend's shirt - began crying. She was hiding her face behind the book she was holding, but her tears were evident in her jerking shoulders.

The foreign teacher of the other graduating class began to cry during her speech as well, and about this time I looked back to see two other girls in my class crying. So I had three girls in my class crying, and those standing around them trying to offer comfort. During this time on stage, the kids are supposed to be standing still and quiet, so I had to turn around and try to get them back where they were supposed to be standing.

By the time we got back to our classroom, the three crying girls had, instead of stopping, only become worse. Their sobs filled our room with a high enough level of noise that the other children were covering their ears. They alternated between going to comfort the girls and laughing because they did not know what else to do. I did the same thing. Kids from other classes were sticking their heads into our door to see what was going on. Other teachers as well.

As I left school yesterday, two of the girls had mostly come under control. The other, the first to cry, was still at it. I reflected on those tears, and I realized that they were not the tears of young children being sad. Those were the tears of kids growing up, understanding that their lives are changing. I saw a great maturity in those tears, in these children understanding that the happy, easy days of preschool are coming to an end, and that they may never be in such a giving and caring environment again.

I hugged each of the girls and tried to comfort them. I told them that we still have three weeks before we say good-bye. I told them that this was a happy time, that change and growth is exciting. Finally, I just hugged them.

I feel a little bit bad about my laughter, and that of the other teachers. It was not a mean laughter. It was more of a chuckling accompanied by phrases like "Poor girl," and "How sweet." There are times, though, when it feels impossible to bridge the gap between child and adult. This was one. I know why they are sad, and I know why they are scared. I know, too, that they have good reason to be. What I don't know, is what I can say to make them feel better. Is there anything to say? Should I tell them that life in their new school will be wonderful and easy, when for some I know it very well might not be? Should I tell them that their new teachers will care for them as much as we have, when I know that that might not be true, too? Or should I just tell them the truth, like I have taught them that they should do. Should I tell them that they should be scared? That this is what life is about - about change and the unknown. Should I explain to them that this is why we have talked about things like bravery and cooperation - that these are the things that will keep us going when we don't want to get out of bed?

On Thursday, we have one more rehearsal, and then on Friday we have our graduation. After that, two more weeks of class and then I go home. They have four more days after that. A big part of me just wants to ignore the facts of the changes that are coming for all of us, that when we say good-bye, a wonderful chapter is closing on all of our lives. I know I can't do that, though. I'm supposed to be the teacher here. I know I have a responsibility to deal with the emotions the kids are feeling, to address them and to help them understand what is happening. I guess I better go back to that book on bravery and take some of the lessons for myself.


Anonymous Natalia said...

I'm sure you will do OK. So will your kids, and you will come back to see them some time in the future.
If you continue the lifestyle you are leading now, it'll be full of chapters. You will get used to it, dear.

5:04 PM  

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