Tuesday, March 1, 2016

SLICE #1- The mind of a six-year-old

K is a seventh grader at my school. She's had a tough couple of years. Her mom is a single mom, working two or three jobs, to keep her family afloat. Last year her grandmother, probably K's most significant adult, died in the middle of PARCC. Her best friend did one of those middle school abandonment things. One day they were best friends. The next day they were worst enemies. K didn't know why. She cried a lot.

K is a smart, smart girl. And a terrific big sister. Last year, she helped me teach J the alphabet, then sight words. She reads to him every day.  Helps with homework. Assumes the parent role when her mom is gone. She's a smart girl, a sweet girl.

Today I hear her coming from about halfway down the building. They are arguing.

"J," says K. "You have got to change. It's embarrassing."

J shakes his head. "No," he declares adamantly.

K tries again. "You have got to change," she says. "Sit down on the side of the hall and we will fix them."

J refuses again.

"You are embarrassing me," she says again.

It doesn't take long for me to figure out what is wrong.

J's shoes, little black leather high tops with bright red strings, are on the wrong feet.  They point outward, and he waddles down the hall, his backward shoes slapping against the floor.

K is a great little mother, but she deserves to be a teenager. I try to help her. "J, I'm great at shoe tying. You switch your shoes and I will help you tie them."

Again, J refuses. And again, K. reminds him that he is embarrassing her.

I try a different approach. "Well, I guess you can try them that way. I'm not sure they will e comfortable that way.  Try it. If they are uncomfortable, let me know, and I will help you."

J still doesn't want his shoes tied. His sister rolls her eyes again.

And then the bell rings. I tell K to go to class. I will handle this. K sighs. "He is so embarrassing," she says. He never listens to me. And he looks like a nerd with his shoes on the wrong feet."

I laugh and tell her little kids have been wearing their shoes on the wrong feet for many years. I tell her a story about a little girl in my class. She had bright yellow patent leather shoes. And she wore them on the wrong feet every day. It got to the point that the principal was coming down every morning to change Shani's shoes. And every day, as soon as he left, she changed them back. And wore them backwards all day long. This story makes K and her friend M, who arrived mid shoe saga, laugh. The girls head upstairs to their classroom.

I head into first grade. Somehow, Kathy, J's first grade teacher, who is masterful at entering into the minds of her six-year-olds, has convinced J to change his shoes. She is bent down tying his shoes, which are now on the right feet.

The mind of a six-year-old. A strange and wonderful (albeit slightly embarrassing) land.


Linda B said...

Love the story, and have a bit of love for that older sister, too, Carol. You are a big warm help too, I'm sure, although only the teacher got the change made. I've seen a few strange outfits through the years. Who knows what they are thinking? Thanks for the late chuckle.

Elisabeth Ellington said...

Needed the comparative lightness and ease of this story after my evening! Thank you! I am so often in awe of elementary teachers who know the ways of those mysterious minds! I wonder about K and her mind and needs.

elsie said...

Some of the simplest stories are filled with the most heart. Your slices always deliver that heart. You have one of the kindest hearts I know. Thank you for being there for all the kids.

Michelle said...

Love the slices from your school. They speak so much about your attention to details and importance of relationships. You care so much and your students matter so much. And oh the heartbreaks ... I'm thankful that you are there for them, every day, even in embarrassing moments. ;)

PS I was praying I'd see you joining in the March challenge again! Your words and stories matter to me (and countless others!). Enjoy the small moments of squeezing in a little writing every day!

Karen said...

Carol - children like K deserve medals for getting through the days. I think about her trials last year, and now, her new "trials" with her younger brother. Some children just have to grow up so darn fast!