Days and Preschool Days, Too:
A treasury of anecdotes culled from my work
and play as a preschool worker and an elementary school after- school
THE GREAT LEAP
to the sliding board in our preschool yard is a play structure that
has three wide, metal bars a child can use as a ladder to climb. Vertically,
they're a foot or so apart, and each bar is maybe 4 feet long.
On a whim one day I started offering
to catch childeren who would dare to leap off the top metal bar. If
they need help climbing up, I hold their hands. Many of them don't need
it, because at each side of this little structure there's a vertical
wooden beam that's easy to hold onto for support.
Once up on the top bar there are various
railings to hold onto for balance. When the child is ready, he or she
jumps into my arms. It's a safe risk.
With some of the kids who enjoy a bit of clowning, I start by standing
way across the sidewalk, in a rock garden that runs up against the wall
of the school building, and holding out my arms right there. I'm talking
about 6 or more feet out from where the helpless, tiny child is holding
for dear life on to the wooden support beam. He or she would have to
fly to leap that far.
I always look surprised, though, when
the boy or girl gestures, "I can't jump that far!" and motions me to
come closer. I come up to maybe 4 feet awayto the far edge of the
sidewalkand hold out my arms again, looking up once more with a
big clown smile of total faith in the child's abilities! Sometimes I
even take my hat off and hold it out for the child to jump into.
Receiving smiling protestations from
the child that to jump into a hat, or to the far edge of the sidewalk,
is impossible, I move closer and closer, till the little one is right
in front of me. Then I either hold my arms out again or, if necessary,
hold him or her by both hands. The child closes both eyes and LEAPS
into my arms.
I close my eyes too. When it's over,
I keep them closed and ask, "Did I catch you?" He or she nods or says
"uh-huh"or a nearby child will assure me that the precious bundle
has indeed landed safely in my arms. That jumper then runs along, usually
to get back in line to go again, as the next person gets ready to leap.
The bars are wide enough that 3 or 4
children can be waiting at once, perched across the top one. The line
goes fairly quickly with the exception of one boy who takes kind of
a "zen" attitude toward jumping. He waits and waits for the
"Is Carlos ready?" I ask. He
remains still as a stone."Carlos isn't ready!" I announce.
"Carlos still isn't ready!"
I intone a little while later. But now Carlos bends his knees a bit.
"Carlos is getting ready!" I shout. And finally, Carlos jumps!
Several of the old-timers who've been
flying off the bars for a couple years still insist that I start way
back against the school wall every time, and we "whittle down" the distance
till it's safe to leap. They love to play at make-believe with a grown-up.
Some 2 year-olds have no idea at all
how to climb to the top railor when they're at the top. So I just
lift them over, and holding them by the hands, "fly" them to the ground,
and they, too, beam with delight.
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