Posted: Monday, March 28, 2011
Written by Carol Nittoli, Primary and Kindergarten Teacher
It is a typical morning in the Martin Luther King Room as the children scurry off after group circle lesson to choose their favorite work. The older children, more familiar with our routine, need little or no direction subsequently allowing them first choice of an exciting theme-related work or new work recently added to the shelves. Our younger students however, are still approaching the shelves with a bit of apprehension and caution, not quite sure where their interests lie and to some degree, not yet confident in their skill level. I observe them closely.
A three-year-old and first-year student has had his eye on the “carrot cutting work” since I’ve introduced it to the food prep section in Practical Life a couple of weeks ago. He observes. He waits. He contemplates. Day after day I have observed him as he stands off to the side, watching his older classmates master the carrot cutting work. Yet he has not chosen it. It is a challenging work after all. The procedure for this multi-step work is as follows. The work is chosen and brought to a table. The child puts on an apron. A carrot is selected from the basket and placed on the tray. A bowl on the tray must be filled to a mark with water. The carrot is then scrubbed with a brush. The water is emptied into a bucket and the bowl is dried. Next, the carrot is peeled with a vegetable peeler. The shavings are placed into the bowl and emptied into the trash. The bowl is wiped clean and set aside. Now the carrot is ready to be cut into coin size pieces (we use a crinkle cutter). Once cut, the pieces are placed into another bowl and the child is ready to enjoy and share with the class.
Finally the day has come. This three-year-old is ready. The coast is clear. No one has chosen the carrot cutting work! He makes a dash for it. I observe him as he fumbles a bit but follows each step to the letter. He stops to pick up each carrot piece that pops off the cutting board onto the floor then resumes his work. He is determined. I am impressed. He scrubs meticulously; he chops and cleans with great care. Once confident that he does not need my assistance, I walk away and continue with my individual lessons, still keeping one eye on him. I can see that he has completed his work. He is so excited and anxious to serve the carrot to his classmates that while getting up from his chair he fell onto the floor! He makes his way around the room and I can hear his soft voice as he asks his classmates, “Would you like one?” He is extremely proud. The smile on his face says a thousand unspoken words. Some of the children approach him and politely ask if they may have one. He is filled with pride and with a smile that still has not left his face replies happily, “sure!”
While I was sitting at a table with one of the Kindergarten girls and occasionally watching this younger student as he continued to make his rounds with his little bowl of carrots, I could still hear his proud little voice and the crunching of carrots from his friends as they eagerly reaped the reward of his efforts. As the carrot buzz subsided, he found himself standing alone. I watch him as he looks around the room. It’s quiet. The children are busy with their lessons. He was now in close proximity to me but unaware of my presence and I observed something that has touched my heart so, causing my eyes to fill with tears. He suddenly realized that he himself has not had a piece of his own carrot. He stood there and lowered his head to peer into the bowl and to his surprise, one carrot coin was left! I watched him smile to himself as he picked up the little carrot and bring it to his lips. In that instant, his eyes met the Kindergarterner's. Time stood still, the smile faded from his face. His big brown eyes opened wide and sad as he slowly removed the carrot from his lips and without a word, stretched out his little arm and offered his last piece to the Kindergartener. This older student reached for the carrot, and then paused. For some unknown reason, she turned to me and our eyes met. Neither of us said a word but with a big, beautiful smile, she responded to him with, “No thanks, you can have it”. This younger student beamed with delight as he crunched happily on that last piece of carrot. All I could do was to simply hug each child and tell them how proud I was. How lucky was I to witness the younger student's unselfishness and the older student’s compassion and insight.
I realized throughout the morning just how fortunate and blessed I am to work with these children every day. It’s the simplicity of life that many of us miss at times. It’s the simplicity of life that opens our eyes and hearts to humanity in its purest form.