Sunday, December 11, 2005

please give this story a title

Sometimes, my instincts are spot on perfect.

In my morning classes, I teach two classes. The first is a class of thirteen children, aged 5 and 4, by Western years(you are one year old here when you are born). It is an unruly class. The children fight each other, do not stay in their seats, do not pay attention, all that. I like them, though. They're not mean, just unruly. They do pay attention when they are having fun. Unfortunately, I can't play games and wrestle with them all class, as much as I would like to. So anyway, the class is just what it is- imperfect, but still beautiful.

There is one boy, in particular, named Jack. He is a big boy, a real butterball. I bet he weighs at least 80 pounds. He is really strong for his age as well. He is sweet, but he also picks on the other children. I have tried to prevent this, but if I am more than grabbing distance away, he is pretty much the bully. I noticed the Chinese language teacher treats him differently from the other kids, largely because of his size. I think that is true for most children who are bigger than normal. We expect that they will act more maturely. I think this must be very frustrating for them. I do a lot of picking up the children. They hold their arms straight up, and I pick them up by their hands and lift them as high as I can. I even tried with Jack, but I can't get any leverage under him, so I can only lift him maybe six inches off the ground. This is not terribly fun for either of us.

I had fought the impulse to try and pick him up any other way, because the kids all want to be treated the same. The only reason I started picking them up at all was that I made the mistake of doing it once with one child. I was immdediately swarmed by all the children, all of them lifting their arms and telling me, in Chinese, that they wanted their turn. As mistakes go, it is one I'm glad I made, because I get to see the looks in their eyes as I pick them up to my face level and above. These looks are of absolute, unmitigated joy.

So, back to Jack. He is the one boy who I can't pick up this way. The other day, he was chasing another child around, and as he came by me, I arm-tackled him, and picked him up by cradling him. He was shocked silly. His eyes lit up, he almost peed himself laughing. I let him down, and he ran off, but turned around and ran back at me. Then I just dropped down to my knees and bear-hugged him, then stood up. He was in heaven. I wondered when was the last time anyone had picked him up, including his parents.

Later, I was saying goodbye to the class, which is usually when they want to be picked up. Jack was grabbing me, so I just thought, fuck it, and grabbed him under his armpits and lifted, hoping against hope that I was strong enough to pick him up. I think that children's laughter must give us extra strength, because I was able to lift him up over my head, and give him a litle toss as well. I had so much fun that I had to do it a couple more times. This boy was just transformed from a bully into a quivering, laughing, little kid.

So now I have a new exercise, because all the kids want to be picked up like this. The lifting by the hands thing is so last week.


Anonymous Melanie said...

What a cool story!!! Sorry I haven't been more in touch -- I've been reading the blog though, and it's been a delight! It sounds like things are going great for you there, which is pretty darn ass-kicking. All is well here. Brad and I broke up, things at the office are good, I went to Israel for work, etc. etc. etc.

Have a good x-mas and such!


5:29 AM  

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