Monday, March 30, 2015

Service and Sharing

When I volunteered to get Jordan into school, I brought JED on occasion. When that extended to an island wide search for crickets and they asked why volunteering meant I had to do so much, I explained the difference between just finishing my job of volunteering at school and serving the school. I explained that service meant helping others without really expecting anything in return and that while I had volunteered to help the school to get Jordan in, I didn't expect that my going out to buy crickets every two days was going to give me an extra or better chance of getting her in.

I didn't think they heard or understood me but towards the end of last year, Jordan came and asked me if she could serve at her kindy. Her reason was that if Mommy could serve, so could she. When I asked what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to read to the children or help them at art or something. When I asked her if she expected to get paid, she said no. She emphasised that she wanted to go back and just serve.

The trick was trying to find something she could do and not make more work for the teachers. There was also the problem of trying to figure out when she could go what with her own school and crazy schedule.

It's taken us all these months to find a slot and something for her to do. Eventually, we did; something totally up her alley.

On the last day of the term, she returned to her kindy to share with the K2 children how she wrote stories. They were about to embark on a book project in the next term and she had done one when she was their age. She brought in her manuscript as well as the eventual book that got published and like a visiting dignitary, went to each of the classes.

The teachers like me didn't know what to expect so we had to wing it. She went in with her bestie from the same kindy, Chloe. We introduced them and got her to read her story to them and ask questions. She was noticeably nervous and she couldn't make her voice louder. By the end of the first reading, she was audible from the back but still tentative. To make things better, we got her a mike that she could strap around her and that changed everything for her. The performer in her stepped forward.

Even though she claimed that she was still nervous, she read her story with a song sing lilt and answered the questions clearly. All this was done in utter seriousness.

By the second class, she had her schtick down pat.

First she would introduce herself as would Chloe. She would tell them what she was going to do and then she would do it. She would read her published version while Chloe flashed the identical pages from the manuscript. After that, she would take questions. The teachers and I felt like we were staffing her, telling her where to go and picking out the questions she would address.

This is a sampling of the questions she took.

1. How do you write stories?

A: I have to think very carefully. I use the pictures I have drawn to make stories. Sometimes I add in actions to make the story more interesting. 

2. What is the most important thing on the cover of the book? 

A: The title.

3. How long do you take to write a story?

A: This book that I read took me one week to write. But sometimes I write them in one hour. Or sometimes, ten minutes. (See more about this exchange below)

4. What steps did you go through before the book was finished?

i..  I draw the pictures then I coloured them with crayons and drew the outline with marker.

ii. Then I told Auntie C (her teacher) the story and she typed it out.

iii. I cut out the text and stuck them to the pictures.

iv. Then they got printed and they stapled the book in the middle twice. (She was very obsessed with the stapler and the book being stapled. She went on to explain how to use a stapler.)

5. Why did you write about butterflies? (Her story was The Butterfly Trip)

A: Because I could draw butterflies very well.

Listening to her, we came to the unanimous conclusion that she looked and played the part of the writer pretty convincingly. Quirky clothes and accessories.

On top of that, she seemed to have a knack of facilitating the questions, getting the children to answer questions just like they asked her. No surprise for a child born of two teachers, she had all the teacher mannerisms down; stopping mid sentence when the children spoke over her and giving them a look, shushing them, ending questions with a finger flourish to indicate that it was for children to respond.

Funny things she asked or said to the children.

1. The question was which Starlight (K2) class was she from. Her answer was "I was from..... (insert drumroll) Starlight 4..... + 4! And WHAT'S that?" (pointing at the children)

2. Each time she read the book, she added a little bit extra into it, ad-libbing as she went along.

3. When explaining the back page which was the 'About the Author' page, she pointed to her signature and delivered a public service announcement.

" This is my signature. It's curly and it's special because I am the only one who can sign it. If you copy my signature when you are an adult, you can go to jail! That is called forging!"

4. When asked how long she took to write the book, she tossed the question back to the children with

"You guess how long?"

"1 second!" was the response.

"How can that be possible? 1 second is like you counting 'one!'"  she countered.

5. She pointed to the photograph of her at the back of her book. "This is me. 2 years ago! Like you, now!"

She was on a high after that. She smiled and waved and promised to come back.

When I asked her what was her favourite moment, she said she didn't know because she just loved being back at kindy and hoping that what she said would help them write better stories.

Some days, it's easy to forget that she's not yet 8.


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