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
IT TAKES A CHILD TO RAISE A VILLAGE
It was after the Kick
the Can craze faded that the building phase began. I was trying
to make my afternoons as an Elementary Aftercare Supervisor as interesting
and helpful as possible. I played baseball and football with the children
and gave guitar lessons to anyone who expressed an interest. But roaming
our big playground in the shadow of Mount Diablo, I often felt like
a lone cowboy mending fences on some vast expanse of the King Ranch.
One day during this period I noticed
Cory, a 2nd grader, joyfully walking around with mud all the way up
to his elbows and all over his face. Cory is never happier than when
he's immersed in mud. As I watched, though, he suddenly stopped clowning
and knelt down. He appeared to be lost in some project at ground level,
but I couldn't see what it was. The new gazebo that our school engineer
was building was blocking the way.
Curious, I walked over to Cory to find
that he and some friends had fashioned a whole, miniature city out of
mud. The city had a wall around it, a domed gate, turrets, and smooth
places for roads. It didn't look like a child's project, but like something
I might see in a museum.
Fascinated, I asked if I could join in.
I thought I could make my best contribution as a road builder, and so
began placing twigs along the smooth areas that circumambulated the
city and connected its various parts. It took scores of such twigs to
pave a whole road. But in a couple of afternoons, I had a pretty good
freeway system in place.
Meanwhile, more children had joined us, adding
storehouses, temples, pyramids, tunnels, and other miniature structures.
People, including teachers, who walked by became fascinated by what
my fellow builders were now calling the Aztec City.
After a week or so someone destroyed
our city. That's always an occupational hazard of building things on
the playground. By that time, though, interest in the project had already
begun to flag. In fact, I suspect some of the builders may have been
the very ones who knocked it down.
* * * * *
Several days later I
noticed a lot of activity in the tree-shaded, grassy area off to
the west of our blacktop, a spot that was usually "out of bounds". One
of the other supervisors had set up a chair and was allowing children
to play there. I could see Cory and several other children carrying
armfuls of sticks and grass across the lawn. As
my eyes adjusted to the shade, I saw where they were taking them. Twenty
feet in front of me, a full-sized Indian village lay outspread! The
little grove of trees sheltered 3 huts made of dried grass, each one
3 or 4 feet tall and unique in design. One of them, built around a skeleton
of sticks used as ribs, was perfectly rounded and extraordinarily elegant.
The whole setting of grass and wood structures
intrigued me and its beauty soothed me. It was almost as though the
miniature Aztec City of a week ago had come to life. When the other
teacher mentioned that she had to go inside to do something, I jumped
at the chance to take over supervising the village area.
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