Friday, May 7, 2010

It's All in the Delivery

By Claudette Young

Show and Tell remains a time in kindergarten and first grade when discoveries become shared wonders for children. And so it has been for decades. For classroom teachers, on the other hand, in can be anything from a nightmare to a delight.

I was not the classroom teacher of that specific class. Instead, I worked with the Special Education Teacher. I was the teacher in charge of a child who’d been blind from birth and mainstreamed to a regular classroom. I can tell you that he absolutely adored Show and Tell, for that time of adventure brought him experience that he could get no other way.

Since we lived in a small town in a large ranching area of Montana, a person never knew what encounters would come along on any given day. School was no different in that regard.

Case in point. One bright spring morning our first grade class readied itself for Show and Tell in a state of normal anticipation.
The two children who would present their items for inspection sat at their places in the circle on the Gathering Carpet. Whispers flitted around the crowded circle of twenty-two children. All wondered what the day’s offerings would provide for them.

For instance, the week before had brought a garter snake and a pet rat. The snake bit my student. The bite didn’t hurt the young fellow, of course--just startled him. I explained that pinching a snake’s head between thumb and forefinger would probably always result in being bitten.

The rat didn’t bite. It remained well behaved all day, and my student had a grand time getting to know the rodent on a personal level through petting and holding.

Yet this well-remembered day left me with a memory of only the one item brought for passing around. It’s appearance wiped out any recollection of its counterpart for all time.

When it came time for the boy to present his item, he got up and went to the hall door. He looked to see if his parents had arrived and must have seen them coming down the hall.

He turned to the others and said something to the effect of, “My folks had to bring my Show and Tell.”

Everyone got excited at the revelation. They must have figured that if adults had to bring it, size or danger must be involved.
In this instance, it was size and potential disruption. The boy’s father came in carrying a newborn calf. There it was, riding in the big man’s arms, happy as could be, not making a sound.

The father brought it to the carpet and carefully kneeled down to deposit the brown and white calf on its feet. I have to give the kids credit. There were plenty of ooo’s and ah’s, but they were bare whispers. No one wanted to frighten this sweet baby with lots of noise.

Our student demonstrator showed them all the particulars of the calf while telling them that it had only been born a few hours before and had still been wet when he’d first seen it in the barn. Normally the wobbly calf would have been born in the pasture, but this one was meant for a 4-H project so that the cow was stalled before she calved.

Our intrepid student explained everything while dozens of hands petted and patted the shy little bull calf and whispered things to it. My student had never seen a cow, of course. His classmates made certain he could take as much time as he needed to examine this marvel of living beef with his wandering little hands.
He felt its slight fuzzy coat, the tail which swished when he tried to take hold of it, the head and ears. I made sure that he didn’t try to examine its mouth. That bite would have hurt. I allowed him to do his exploration with help from his peers.

From the look on his face, he’d never dreamed of being this close to such a creature. He’d only ever heard of cows is passing from family or friends. Now he could touch one, feel how wiry the hair was in some spots, how warm its little body was, how much muscle moved under the skin when his hands ran across the shoulder and along the sides.

This experience was better than the snake and more exhilarating than the rat. It rivaled the petting zoo where animals were used to people and could care less how many people touched them. This was a new living thing learning about the world the same as he was.

At school year’s end he said that Show and Tell day was the best he’d ever had--with one exception. That exception came a couple of weeks later when one of the local ranchers who also raised exotic animals brought several from the ranch so that the whole school could have a special kind of show and tell.

But that’s another story all together.

Claudette J. Young
ICL member, Member Children's Writers Network
Member Children's Writers & Illustrators
Member Red River Writers Group

1 comment:

Pam said...

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