Feb. 10, 2017
One Gift, One Christmas, One Smile
Sitting in the classroom watching these little kids made me want to cry. Literally. As I watched them learn and do activities, it made me think about how it’s been almost seven years since I’ve been in first grade and how much things have changed. In that very moment I thought to myself,
I’ve been taking my education and everything that I have, friends, family, for granted.
The looks on these kids faces made me feel bad for them, looks of sadness and disappointment, as I glanced around the classrooms, which are smaller and less decorative than ours. I see the teachers and how they act towards the kids. I don’t blame any of them. Educating kids that come from an environment of broken homes, violence in their neighborhood, or their fathers being in jail, It made me ask myself,
Why would teachers want to be surrounded by this environment every day? Being in one of the classrooms made it really easy to prove my point. I was a first hand witness.
I sat in one of the student desks just like everyone else, alongside Sofia. We were assigned to a classroom to give out presents and hang out with them. Some of these kids don’t get any presents for Christmas; the one we give them is all they get. The hardest, saddest part about this is how I became overly attached to a few of the first graders. It made it a million times harder to leave. (I’ll explain more later). As I did holiday projects with them, I asked a few questions. Questions that you expect to know the answer to, questions that are asked commonly and have been answered a million times before. For example,
“How are you?”, typically the answer is,
“Good, how are you?” But in this case, I was asking three first graders how school was going. Their responses were not what I was expecting. I thought they were going to say, “It’s a lot of fun and we get to do all these drawings like…”,
I think you can tell what I was getting at. I would proceed to look at all their drawings and hear all these stories about some stuffed animal that they brought to show their friends. However, this is what they said,
”First grade is terrible. It sucks”!
I am speechless. I didn’t say anything for five seconds. I just sat there staring at them in silence. I said the first thing that came off the top of my head,
“Well what’s the best thing about first grade?”
I had to change the topic to something positive.
They started to talk about one of the “brain teaser” dances they learned and how lunch is their favorite class. Lunch is mine too. I don’t know why they said those things pointing out why first grade is so bad. Along with some of these kids having family issues or the kids being in the environment that they are in made me really think twice. The teachers spent ¾ of the class trying to get them all to pay attention. Or the teacher would yell at them. It made me want to stand up and take charge. The way they were being treated was unfair. Teachers aren’t supposed to yell at their students, grab them by the arm, and shove them around. The kids told me how most of their fathers were in jail. Again, speechless. The more time we spent with them, the more attached they became to us. That’s a good and bad thing. Sofia and I were scheduled to have lunch with our friends while the first graders had lunch. It was our “break”. We weren’t supposed to go anywhere with them besides the classroom.
“Can you guys come with us to lunch and special?!”
Their special in this case is computers. I didn’t know how to answer. I heard voices in the back of my head but soon realized it wasn’t voices.
“KK please?! Please! Please!”
I heard them all say repeatedly, like a broken record.
How could I say no. The fact that they wanted me to stay with them made me feel like I was special.
“Sure. Of course!” I said with a grin.
We didn’t even know if we were allowed to do that. I didn’t care. There are some times in your life when you just have to break the rules. Sometimes doing the wrong thing may be the right thing, If that makes any sense. Looking back I know it was the right thing to do.
As the day went on I went to their classes and observed them. I realized I lost track of time when I peeked at the clock and read “2:02”.
I had a flashback to when we first arrived, my advisors told my group to be back at “headquarters” at 1:45, another word for our school’s meeting spot. We were supposed to be back in Easton by 2:30.
“Sofia, look at the clock.” I said while trying to keep a calm, collected face.
“We need to leave!” Sofia whispered with a worried face.
This all felt rushed, wrong. The least of my worries was getting to the bus, I was terrified to face the first graders, saying goodbye.
“Boys and Girls, Sofia and I have to leave.”
I regretted saying each and every word that came out of my mouth. I glanced around the room as all the kids stopped what they were doing and just stared like we were criminals. Tears started to pour down faces like a spreading virus. I wanted to hug each and every one of them with all my strength.
“Bye everyone.” was all we could manage to say without crying too.
All that time we spent with them felt like no time at all in the end. Saying goodbye was the quickest and the most painful part of the day. That wasn’t how it was supposed to end. I planned on hugging all of them and say goodbye to each of them individually. This all made me realize how the ending is just as important as the beginning and middle of every story. The ending could make or break it. In this story, I broke all those kids hearts. I try to refer back to when they got their gifts and the smiles on their faces. I walked out of that school knowing I made one kid smile. I think that’s what counts in the scorebook.