One day, Jean Rupe, a teacher at our Smith Valley school says, “Ron, you’re a dancer. Why don’t you come to class, and get the kids up and dancing?”
Hmm, I never considered that. I speak with the principal, get her okay, and that’s how “kiddersize” is born. For 12 years, Orllyene and I make weekly visits to first, second, or third, grade classes.
Every time we show up, the kids shove their desks out of the way, I plug in my boom box, and we’re ready to go. I point my finger at them, and they shout, “It’s showtime!” Next, I play some Glenn Miller, Tijuana Brass, Elvis, or even Sinatra music, and we’re off and dancing. I stand in front of the class, and they face me. I do a dance move, and they mirror it. The more energetic I am, the better they like it. The teachers are pleased too. The dancing uses up some of their squirrely energy. Some days, Maureen Savidge, the third-grade teacher, joins in.
“Look. Mrs. Savidge is dancing!” they giggle in disbelief.
All of a sudden their teacher is a real person. For the Christmas program, we do the Chipmunks version of Jingle Bells and the gym rocks out.
After kiddersize, Thunder the wonder pig makes his appearance. Thunder is a toy porcelain pig, who wears a Superman cape. He is balanced on a tiny rod that I spin on a pivot point on top a 6-inch statue of the Empire State Building. Thunder loves to hear jokes.
“Who has a joke? Raise your hand and stand up,” I say.
The jokes turn out to be riddles.
“Why did the boy throw the clock out the window?” A hand shoots up. “He wanted to see time fly,” and the room erupts with laughter. “Why did the pig cross the road?” and we hear 10 wrong answers. Who cares? Everyone is participating, and having fun. It’s story time. Everyone scoots over and plunks down in front of Orllyene.
“You see this beautiful picture book? Well, I got it from your library. How many of you have library cards?” she asks. She always encourages young students to get their own library card.
As soon as she starts to read, a transformation takes place. Her voice sings, purrs, cackles, growls, or coos. She acts out each delicious story detail. “See, here’s a picture of a pony running across the rainbow,” she says, and shows the picture to everyone. If a student gets too rambunctious, she raises her hand and announces firmly, “It’s my turn. You can have your turn in a later.”
One day, a little blond girl politely raises her hand. “Yes dear. What is it? Orllyene asks. “My daddy killed my kitty,” the little girl says. The classroom turns stony silent. Orllyene pauses for a moment. “Oh my, that is so sad. I’m sure your daddy didn’t mean too.” By now the pretty little girl’s face is all pouty. “A ladder fell on my kitty. Daddy says he’s going to get me another kitty though,” the little girl says. We all start breathing again.
The next time we visit Mrs. Thompson’s class, the little girl sees Orllyene. “I have a new kitty. Her name is Fluffy, just like the last one,” she says. Orllyene gives her a big hug, and all is well once more. You never know what’s going on inside a child’s mind.
Time flies by, and two of those youngsters are now grown up. Henry (senior) and Owen (sophomore), are coming to my house to explain the mysteries of Twitter. They know more about downloading, transferring and manipulating my computer than I will ever know. Now the students are the teacher, and that’s just fine with me.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.