A little one from Ghana with a flair for the dramatics approached me forlornly one morning a few weeks ago.
"Mrs. Lipstick" she wailed, "Why, Oh WHY does everyone here have soft hair?"
I was use to her dramatics but I wasn't expecting this. Soft hair?
"What do you mean?" I asked, "What is soft hair?"
"You know, like you and G, and Mrs. C and P and..." she listed everyone in the class and some other teachers outside the class who were not from Africa or African American. "I want soft hair too, but I just have rough hair."
I was in a hurry to get my small group out of the room and I stumbled over the answer. Normally I try to get eye to eye with a little one and have a heart-felt talk about how we're all beautiful the way we are. Unfortunetly, in my mind, I butchered this chance. I think I something about how her hair wasn't rough and when I was a little girl I wanted hair just like hers and that it wasn't fair that my hair didn't go into braids like hers, but now that I was a grown up I knew my hair is ok just the way it was, because we are all different and that is OK.
She stared at me during this monologue and then whispered, "You want my hair?" I nodded, but I was trying to hurry up one of the kiddos I take for a small group, so I didn't elaborate. I eventually got my small group from the room and I left, sad that the conversation had happened and that I hadn't taken more time with her. This was my friend's first year in the country after spending the first memorable years of her life in Ghana, and I suspect being around so many people who were different than her was starting to get to her.
A few days later she started showing up at my desk in the morning on the way to her class. At first it was just the question, "Do you like my hair?" or "Do you want my hair?"
Clearly our conversation had stuck with her, but I don't think she fully believed me. She needed to come back every day just to be sure I'd meant it.
Yesterday morning I was frantically (why is it that everything I do is frantic?) setting up for an IEP meeting when she happened to spot me. She threw herself into the room with great gusto and announced, "Mrs. Lipstick, don't you WISH you had my hair?"
Everyone else in the room was taken aback. It seemed like quite a cocky statement coming from such a little one. I could do nothing but laugh.
"YES!" I answered, especially since the braids in her hair that morning were slipped into two charming pigtails. "I LOVE your pigtails!"
"I know!" she grinned, and skipped on to class.
I love kindergarten. I love how little things we do and say, even when they do not seem right to us, somehow can calm their five year old worries.
Literal to the nth degree.
AND it's No wonder (BUT PAINFUL) the parents get so worried about, what their children say to them about what's said in the classroom.
I wish you were the teacher of this girl.
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