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January 31, 2012

Photo by Laura Slotkoff

By Anna Kann, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Reed Elementary School

One of the greatest things about working in a Pre-K through 8th grade school is that you get to work with students of a variety of ages. I usually work with seventh grade students, but for the after school program I get to venture into the wonderful world of Pre-K through 3rd grade.

This particular day, the after school teacher and myself took a group of 1st graders outside to run around the playground. Days like this are endlessly entertaining for everyone. There are kids running around in circles, asking for pushes on the swings, and climbing too high until they can’t get down. There are tears (usually they don’t last too long) and many, many smiles. But today, one little boy sat down next to me. We talked about this and that. We talked about how I saw him on Saturday at his brother’s basketball game. We talked about how strong he is and how many tricks he can do on the monkey bars. As I was herding the gaggle of 1st graders from snack to the playground and in between, this little boy was never far behind me.

Then 4:45 rolled around and it was time to line up for the bus home. He grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. We led the zigzag line of fifteen 1st graders the 200 feet from the playground to the buses, which I can assure you is one of the most frustrating tasks and could drive any sane person crazy. As I strived to keep order amongst the chaos, the little boy tugged on my hand.

“Ms. Kann, do you follow the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King?” His eyes were wide with wonder.

“Yes, I would say I do. He was a very smart guy and he taught good things. Why?”

“Well because black people and white people are usually not friends”, he said very matter-of-factly.

I had to think for a couple seconds.  I was not sure what to say. He was so blunt. My mind ran wild with my imagination. What has he seen or experienced that could possibly make him believe that? What has happened to our nation that a 1st grader could identify such a glaring problem?

I smiled and looked at him. “But we’re friends.”

“Yeah, we are.” He smiled. We arrived at his bus. He turned and gave me a big hug and climbed on to the bus.

As I turned away, the conversation made my heart sore but put a smile on my face.

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