Sunday, March 30, 2008

Double Dutch

This article isn't about my daughter's school...but it could be. We are very close to the school geographically. Our test scores/diversity are about the same.

And the observations made in the article are very similar to our experience.

On Friday, I volunteered for an hour at a special "extended recess" at D's school. I was in charge of twirling one end of a very large, long, heavy jump rope. A group of kids (mostly girls) congregated and began playing complicated jump-rope games.

Of the approx. 12 kids, 11 were African-American and extremely proficient at jump-roping. I was amazed by their grace and athletic ability. It is not easy to jump rope. Trust me. These girls made it look easy. No matter how quickly we turned the rope, they jumped and jumped some more.

The 12th kid was white, slightly overweight, and not even remotely skilled at jump roping. She just couldn't do it. Every time she tried, she got caught up in the rope.

In my elementary school experience, she would have been mocked. She was different in every way possible. She would have been made fun of. She would have been excluded. These are 11 year old girls, after all. Aren't they supposed to be cruel and clique-y?

But the thing is...they weren't. They were kind. They were supportive.

We played a game in which each kid would run through and jump a successive number of times. The first time, they'd just run through (no jump), the second time, they'd jump once. The third, twice...and so on. But the end of the game, the 11 girls were jumping 20+ times. The last girl had yet to jump once.

And then she did it. She jumped. The rope didn't get caught. She did it! My heart soared for her. For some reason, I always seem to bond with the outsider, the geek, the outcast.

And then, the strangest thing happened: the other 11 girls erupted in cheers and clapped for her. Yes, pre-teen girls spontaneously being kind.

There are tons of problems with our extremely low-income school. Serious problems. I won't even attempt to gloss over them.

But this stuff - this kindness - it happens all the time.

It is currently the season where people in our neighborhood decide which school their soon-to-be-Kindergartner will be attending. I rave about our school, but it's a tough sell: low test scores and high poverty rates scare most people straight to the private schools.

If only NCLB tested for kindness. Then, maybe we'd have a chance.


Bridgett said...

Ok, that image brought tears to my eyes. Seriously.

I have a friend with 7 kids--I was pregnant with my first when she was pregnant with her last. I mentioned (remember, first time mom) how I just wanted my kid to be healthy and smart. And she shook her head. No. She just wanted her to be kind. Lots more important than smart.

LisaS said...

yep, I'm teary too.

Smart is good, rare in its own way.

Kind seems to be a lost art.

E said...

You need a PR campaign. Even a low cost one, posters, notes in the parent newsletter...
Test Scores Are In...Kindness through the roof!
Kind kids soar...etc.
Beautiful post

LisaS said...

actually, that's a great idea. High Scores in Kindness. Press releases. A blog. etc.

Just what I need, another project.