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
In the preschool
play yard outside of Rooms 3, 4, and 5, we have somel big, plastic
trucks: dump trucks, pickup trucks, bulldozers, backhoes, and a giant
crane. The rule for playing with them is that the trucks have to stay
on a sand "highway" that runs parallel to the sidewalk. The main reason
for this rule is that running the trucks on the sidewalk wears out their
You really have to witness the dedication
our play truckers have to this pastime, to believe it. Boys, and a few
girls, run at full speed with their "18 wheelers", from one end of the
track to the other, then turn around and go back.
The play is serious, as serious as I
would image real, long-distance truckers are about their work. The children
rarely smile. It isn't that they're not having fun. They're just completely
immersed in imaginative play. They're seeing themselves on the real
highways they've driven with their parents and seen on TV.
Trucks have a great mystique for many
children, almost as great as dinosaurs. Both trucks and dinosaurs in
fact, have huge bodies and enormous power that children can partake
in through play. More than once, after
outdoor play has gotten underway and the usual toy truckers have taken
all the available vehicles and are plying them down the sand highway,
I've seen a forlorn boy whose glance is darting all around the play
yard as he walks. Crossing my path, the fellow will look at me with
a pitiable expression and mutterreminding me a little of a strung-out
junkie"I need a truck!"
The most extreme example I've seen of
the power of big automotive machines as psychic images came as I asked
the children at my lunch table one day, "What do you want to be when
you grow up?"
Most of the boys and girls gave more
or less expected answers: nurses, doctors, cowboys. But from one imaginative
child came this simple, endearing response"a car".
Sometimes when someone goes barrelling
mythically down our sand highway, I'll play the harmonica and affect
a Johnny Cash accent, singing the child by name:
"Timothy was a truck-drivin' man.
He drove his truck all over the land.
Timothy was a truck-drivin' man."
If the trucker is a girl, I'll sing:
Leah was a truck-drivin' girl.
She drove her truck all over the world.
was a truck-drivin' girl."
The children don't often acknowledge
the music. They're too busy "truckin". But I know they appreciate
it, because they've begun now to ask me to sing to them.
Another way I've tried to join and aid
the preschoolers while supervising the "truck lane" has been to place
my scarf or my harmonica in the back, pickup section of a truck and
ask the driver, "Will you please deliver this to Philadelphia?" Usually
the child proceeds with the cargo in the back of the truck without comment
One day, though, when I asked a little
boy named Jerry, "Will you deliver this harmonica to Chicago?" Jerry
stopped what he was doing and dragged his truck over to me at the side
of the road. Then, looking up at me with a serious, puzzled look, he
said, "Mr. Max, I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking
It had never occurred to me that a child
might not understand what "deliver" means, or what "Chicago" is. I felt
utterly touched by Jerry's guileless question. I explained to him how
trucks on the highway take groceries and many other things from one
city to another, and how Chicago is a big city far, far away. Jerry
nodded when I asked if he understood now that I had explained, and he
pushed the truck, with its harmonica cargo, back onto the road, for
the long haul to the Windy City.
continued back contents title
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