On Tuesday the (ahem) big wigs from the administration building will be at our elementary school, paying each class a 15-minute visit to make sure we’re all on task, going about doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Our principal has warned us not to stress, just do what we always do, the best we can, staying ever-mindful of why we do what we do.
That is teach little children things that will prepare them for the world they will live in one day – never mind the fact we’re not too sure exactly what that world will be. Teach them to read and write and remember what they’ve read. Help them to learn how to count high, figure and calculate (in a manner of speaking). And all along the way we must strive to be fair and kind, considerate and compassionate, helpful and caring, so that someday – hopefully because of our and others’ example – the children in our charge will be those things.
Anyway, on Friday after the Pre-K teacher and I had delivered our eight 4-year-olds to the bus and/or their mommy/daddy/grandma’s waiting arms, we strode back into the hallway outside our classroom to find the walls the length of the hall liberally decorated with students’ best work.
Impressive. Impressive indeed.
It is things like this that give me a certain peace and appreciation for the world we live in now; restores my hope and faith for all that is right, so to speak.
Mrs. Shurtleff, the kindergarten teacher for the class directly across the hall from our class had posted her class’s Martin Luther King Jr. artwork and writing exercises. With black crayons, the children had drawn their own original caricatures of Dr. King on brown, complexion-matched papers. So, so cute. Those kindergarteners had the civil rights’ leader’s mustache down pretty pat, I must tell you.
But in cartoon balloons, the 5-year-olds had provided their own versions for – if they were Dr. King – what their dreams would be. Hysterical, we thought. But well thought out.
One little boy’s dream was to only have recess “reeses” at school. A little girl’s dream was for it to be Christmas “krismus” the whole year. Can anyone argue any of these fine points? One child has a dream that one day his mommy will let him have a puppy.
I’ve been working and/or volunteering in the public schools Pre-K and kindergarten now for four years. On random occasions, I remember the line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream one day … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers,” and I can see that dream has come to fruition.
I don’t think children in those primary grades and younger notice or care. They play, and play well together. At recess, when one child comes to tattle on another, he/she doesn’t identify the offending child by skin color, but by name, or what they’re wearing.
I remember more than 30 years ago, my own son coming home from kindergarten and telling me in a horrified tone that when Martin Luther King was a little boy, people couldn’t drink out of the same water fountain and that black people had to ride in the back of the bus and give their seats to white people.
I could remember those days, of course, and at once was ashamed for the way we were, but proud my child would be shocked by the injustice.
Oh for certain, we have miles and miles to go before we are anywhere near where we need to be. On a lot of levels things may be worse than ever, only because we have had close to 60 years to become more enlightened. Looking at it with the skewed vantage-point of white privilege it borders on being rude to say, “Oh but look how far we’ve come.”
But I don’t know what else to say, except let’s continue forward. We should not stress, just doing well what we do right, as best we can, staying ever-mindful of why we do what we do. All along the way, let us strive to be fair and kind, considerate and compassionate, helpful, caring and respectful, until someday every man, woman and child of every race, creed and culture will be equally fair and kind, considerate and compassionate, helpful, caring and respectful. And maybe then it will seem like “krismus” the whole year.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.