Worth It

We were reading Frederick (Leo Lionni) in afterschool on Monday. My first group was comprised of twenty kindergarteners who all sat fidgety on their cafeteria benches. I have great compassion for this group of babies who have been at school all day, and are tired - and their supervising teachers as well, whose frustration sometimes becomes evident at then end of the day when I join them. Compassion fatigue is a real thing, folks.
Keeping in mind the tiredness of the students, and the overly structured day they've probably had, I've struggled in the past with bringing a program that is not only age appropriate, but restful to their little minds and inspiring to their imaginations. I've had a couple of cringing moments, when an activity I brought became a homework problem for them to work through, rather than the fun non-obligatory exploration I meant it to be. Those ones I've chalked up to overthinking and overestimating their need to be doing something productive at all times. Not all things need to be productive and constructive.  Open ended learning and play is equally important, if not more so for little ones.

Winter Storm Jonas had prevented me from getting into work Friday, and when not at work, I don't really even think about work... so I had completely forgotten that I had planned to put together my Monday afterschool--until Monday morning.
I was in luck to have just received from cataloging an oversized version of Frederick and decided on the fly to use it and pull in a themed craft (which was handily found on Random House's website), and just call it that.

As I read the book aloud to that roomful of squirmy kinders, I talked through the text and illustration on each page, pausing to explain what a granary is, and to ask for responses to the pictures. In Frederick, the titular character is a little field mouse who, while the rest of his family prepares for winter by gathering food, seems to daydream instead of working. When supplies run low mid winter, he is asked about what he can contribute, and rather than producing food, he instead feeds the morale of his little mouse family members by sharing the memories of summer that he had been collecting during the year (when it seemed like he was daydreaming). He tells his companions to close their eyes, and he gives them warm sunshine, bright colors and beautiful words.

As I read through this part, I asked, in rather a perfunctory manner, the kids if they could do the same - to close their eyes and picture colors. I was not really expecting much of a response (am I that jaded already?) so I gave it a second, not really paying attention, and was about to move on, when I looked to the kinders and saw twenty little upturned faces with squinched shut eyes - all picturing colors as hard as they could. I immediately snapped back into myself, taking advantage of the moment where I had them exactly where I wanted them, a little ashamed with myself for not believing in them more, and excited that I'd reached that magical pinnacle of a perfect storytime when imaginations are inspired.

And in that moment it was all worth it.

*I write this as a gratitude log of sorts, to look back on when I'm feeling frustrated and antsy and want to run away. It is a prompt for mindfulness, a dose against dis-content, and a reminder of purpose.

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