Friday, May 27, 2011

A Message for Young and Old

Welcome back, Louisa! :) 

This week I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with forth and fifth grade students at Prairie Creek Community School and to help them with their year endeavor called "Village". It took my class about two days to define "Village", so I will try to sum up the process to the best of my ability. 

Village, in short, is a game where, for give or take a month, forth and fifth grade students organize their own society that revolves around their alter egos called "Peeps" (represented by tiny clay and pipe-cleaner dolls). Through this, the students learn things about government, economics, customs, and society that I just learned a few years back. It is an awe-inspiring experience and it makes me wish I could have gone to school there so I could have been a part of this. 

There are, however, a few students there that make me think in a way that is not questioning my own education. Instead, they make me ponder our need to grow up or, at least, to grow up as quickly as we do.

Today at recess as I played "Store" with a gaggle of kindergartners, first graders, and one fifth grader, I overheard a few girls sitting on a rock playing a clapping game. "How cute," I thought to myself. "I remember the days when a new game like that would have kept me busy for hours." It was not, however, until an adult came over and spoke to them that I realized that they had been chanting the following rhyme: 

Apples on a stick 
Just make me sick. 
Make my stomach go two forty-six. 

Not because I'm dirty.
Not because I'm clean.
Not because I kissed a boy behind a magazine. 

Hey girls! Wanna have some fun?
There goes (insert name of undesirable male classmate here) with his pants undone!

He can wiggle
He can wobble
He can even do the splits
But I bet you fifty dollars he can't do this!

Close your eyes.
Count to ten.
Make a mistake
You gotta marry him!

(Here the girls close their eyes and try to maintain the beat with their hands without messing up.)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!

Not only did I suddenly realize how inappropriate this was for their age group, but I also felt a bit funny as I recalled singing that same song with my friends at their age. The difference was that, where I went to school, the adults present would have paid it as much attention as I did at first: none. 

It was with this memory in my head that I went to help set up for painting (the kids get to paint a house they build themselves for their Peeps). This was my third day and, being within earshot as I am, I have noticed a lot of things.

There are a few girls who seem to be in an awfully big hurry to grow up. I remember there being girls like this at my school, too. In fact, I am certain that every school has things like this happen all the time where a girl undergoes some right of passage (be it a training bra, permission from her parents to bike to school alone, or the memorization of her times tables). I have heard a lot of girls talking about these "special" girls while I help out and it fascinates me to observe what these girls (the so called "popular" girls) seem to think of themselves as compared to what others think of them. While a girl may show up to paint with the air about her that everything should stop immediately because she has just shown up to school, as soon as she leaves a girl might say to a friend that they think that the girl who just left is mean and the friend will agree. 

The point of this story? The fact that I have never once seen a young lady retaliate or do anything intentionally harmful to another in my time at Prairie Creek and that I don't see girls scrambling to become the friend of a girl like that. Instead of the petty things I observe in high school every day I see people moving on with their lives. I see students, male and female, creating beautiful fantasies from thin air, then bringing that which only they can imagine into physical being with the precision and care that makes it possible for everyone to enjoy. 

In conclusion I would like to send the following messages:

Youngsters: Don't hurry to grow up. Someday, you will regret throwing that Barbie you loved so dearly away or tossing those Hot Wheels into the trash. Someday, you will look back on your time as a child. Do you want your memories to be ones of begging Mom to buy you lip-gloss or do you want them to be of frolicking in a field of dandelions?

Louisa, may your days be filled with moments of reflection, awe, and appreciation concerning everything that surrounds you. 

I am so happy we are blogging again and I can't wait to read your next entry. 


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