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If there’s one thing about my professional personality I think I need to bulk up, it’s my confidence in  my ideas, or plans, or my ability to stand up for myself.  I see egregious happenings all around me, but in the grocery store I don’t speak up because it’s ot my business.  At a day care center, where a child is in my “services”, it becomes my business.  So if I’m working with Joseph on taking turns, and he goes running to a teacher and crying and complaining that he didn’ t get the ball for every single turn, I meekly tell the teacher I’d like her not to scoop him up and coddle him.  It’s also happened when I’m just too cowed by the sheer bitchiness of a teacher to defend myself or the kid she’s yelling at.  As the kids lined up in the narrow corridor, one child’s coat fell off his hook.  As part of building his self-help skills, I asked him to hang it up himself.  He was in the midst of looking for a loop or the hood when the teacher barked at him, “Why do you have your coat?  You don’t need your coat!  It’s too hot outside.  Give it to me!”  In my mind, I replied, “It fell off.  Give the kid a freakin’ break.”  In reality, I said nothing. 

Too often I find myself saying nothing.  Two weeks ago, one church basement had finally found/unearthed enough basketballs for five three-year-olds not to fight over.  They also had rigged a basketball hoop appropriate for 10-year-olds.  Children kept trying to throw baskets.  They’d get really really close – directly under the hoop – and throw the ball vertically, resulting in its landing directly on, or frighteningly close to their noggins.  After 2 bonks on the head and 1 tricycle crash into a child paying attention to his basketball’s impending collision with his nose, I finally said something.  I asked the teacher (seated over on the sidelines, not seeing any of the bonks) whom I would talk to about ordering developmentally appropriate balls.  These kids could barely get their hands around the balls.  “Lisa”, in the office.

On my way out, I spoke to Lisa as well as to the pastor, who actually thinks the teachers downstairs are implementing his curricular ideals.  They’re giving out worksheets labeled “kindergarten math” to four-year-olds and singing a song about how when your mother calls you, you should come running right away because Jesus is watching.  Huh?  Well, Lisa insisted each class had plenty of balls.  “What?  I just bought them balls.  Really nice foam balls from the dollar store, five for each class!  What happened to those?”  Can you spot the oxymoron?  Well, I countered, those had disappeared or been destroyed, as foam balls so often are, and they need –I couldn’t stress this enough – a full class set, not five.  What good are five when you have 10 children?  The pastor insisted he was planning to order red dodge balls soon anyway, for the school age kids.  I explained the magic of low-density balls designed for preschoolers to lob at each other’s heads.  I was convincing enough; he asked me to bring in a catalog. 

Yesterday, when I’d finished seeing kids, I went up to the office, bypassing Dollar Store Foam Ball Lady and spoke straight to the pastor.  I showed him the page I’d highlighted, wary he’d be unwilling to purchase specialty balls that cost $54.95 for six.  Especially when he mentioned that he was at the end of the budget year, and there was so little money left, blah, blah, blah.  Well, maybe next year, I hoped.  Then he surprised me.  “I can afford $100 for balls,” he said.  I fairly whooped with joy.  I’ve been successful in my quest to provide safe and appropriate materials for these kids, and I’m on my way to growing my own set of balls.

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It was a long day.  I saw 5 children for an hour each at 3 different sites, on a beautiful spring day when all I wanted to do was be outside.  I did get to go for a short walk with Dante’s class around the block.  Obstacles included such things as mud puddles, craters, loose concrete, and broken glass, but thankfully no condoms (used or new) or dime bags.  It’s not a terrible neighborhood, during daylight hours. 

Dante and Louis, the child I see after Dante, both attend a church basement daycare.  The staff really cares for the kids and has, on the whole, non-yelling, non-screaming, non-day-care-butt-wielding staff members.  They’re pretty hands-off, which means that when I go with the kids into the indoor “gym” (see basement of the church basement, formerly known as auditorium/multipurpose space with stage), I’m the only one interacting with kids, so they gravitate to me like nobody’s business.  My supervisory remarked, “No wonder they go to you; their teachers are all sitting in chairs socializing.”  Yes, teachers need a mental break.  But gross motor play is just just a wild, unruly play time for kids to get their wiggles out.  It’s also a valuable opportunity to teach turn-taking,  support language skills, and encourage cooperative play on many levels.  So I play with the kids.  The teachers like the kids, but they have no idea about developmental appropriateness.  This ranges from having 2.5 year olds do coloring pages of “I is for Iguana” where they’re allowed 1 crayon each and told to “color nicely”.  It also includes Ms. Sasha taking her 4 year olds on hour-and-a-half walks around the neighborhood, into the dollar store and drug store, to tire them out for their naps.  I have much work to do at this school.  But I digress. 

This afternoon, as I was cutting up kiwis for Louis’ class, two girls were playing the game little girls play where you rescind friendship for minor offenses, uninvite people to your non-existent Transformers tea parties, and stand there verbally mocking each other.  Charity had just told Betzaida that she couldn’t have any of her kiwi (which, of course, I was the one cutting and doling out to each child.)  Never mind that there were enough for each child to have one entire kiwi.  Never mind that prior to my peeling and cutting them, Louis had said, “Potatoes?  Dat’s nasty!  I don’t yike potatoes.”  Now that they saw that cool green hue, and heard my solid sales pitch, everyone wanted a piece of the action.  So Charity said her piece, and Betzeida responded with a solid, “You’re not my friend.  I hate you.”  Louis, remembering his Wednesday morning sing-along with Pastor John and his guitar, said, quite clearly,

“Jesus don’t yike dat.”

Damn straight Louis.  Rock on with your character education and guitar sing-alongs.  Rock on, Pastor John. 

The best part?   Louis’ speech goal says something about expressing himself in clear 3-5 word sentences to express needs or make comments.  What communicative act does moral reprimand fall under?