Monday, June 13, 2011

Band-aids, Throw-up, and Ghost Stories: Who Doesn't Live for a Little Good Conversation?

Her eyes got wide and she leaned forward so I could feel her breath on my arm. "It's a true story, Mrs. Leal! It's really true!"

We were reading good old HENRY AND MUDGE, and Henry, the boy in the story, was scared. We could see him cowering in a corner of the room. Why, you might ask? Because Henry's mother loves to tell ghost stories on Halloween, and Henry's mother thinks he loves them, she tells him a headless horseman-type story.

As my reader reads aloud the story-within-a-story, she nods, emphatically. "It DID happen, Mrs. Leal. That guy without a head? It happened in the nineties. You weren't born, yet. But my grandma was." Then she sat back in her chair, a satisfied smile on her face. She had just shared a valuable piece of information with me.

I also had a self-satisfied smile on my face, because I realized I was a much better story teller than I thought I was. All those times when they asked me how old I was? I responded, "23," of course. (...depending on the day; sometimes I am 28.) So she was off a little on her math...double digits don't come into the first grade curriculum until late spring.

As I'm writing my end-of-the-year report cards, I always do it with a little sadness, because I realize they are moving on. I think about the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: "Why you want to leave me?"

So I thought I would relay a few quotes that show what truly awesome little beings first graders are...

They are generous...well, most of the usually means they don't want whatever it is anymore:

"Mrs. Leal? I have a cookie, and I only ate a little bit of it. I could give you half."

They are brutally honest:

"Mrs. Leal? Usually, when I swing this high, I get throw-up in my mouth."

And my favorite from last week:

A girl is proudly holding up the tooth she just lost and a boy next to her says, "Is that old?" She shakes her head and says, "It's yellow, because I didn't brush it last year. I got an electric toothbrush. I'm going to brush it tonight."

They often get sidetracked:

"Mrs. Leal? I wish I lived here. Each classroom would be someone's house, and I would watch the (security) cameras all day. (Pause) Who watches the cameras at night? A robot?"

They are incredibly intuitive:

(A boy was commenting on a fight that had just broken out next to him.) "They just need to be by themselves. They need a vacation from each other."

They are terrible liars (most of them):

"I didn't mean to pee on the wall." (Truly, I did not made this up.) "I just had to go real bad."

First grade is not for the squeamish. There is blood, Band-aids, throw-up, and the occasional missed urinal. But it is worth every minute of it.

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