Last week, one of my clients asked if I would visit her class. She teaches first grade and had just finished a unit on pets. I have done this many times and am happy to do so any time. When I first began doing this, it took me a number of times before I was able to work out the correct level of presentation for different ages. Today’s group of first graders (two classes for a total of 35 kids) was exceptional. They were all alert and attentive. They were interested in the subject and had great answers to my questions. In short, when I say they were exceptional, I mean it literally. That’s not usually how it goes.
What usually happens with kids that age is that there are a few who can’t sit still. One kid starts hitting people and has to be relocated. There are a few who cannot wait for their turn to be in the spotlight. Their hands are up before you even get started. When you ask for questions, you had better be finished with whatever you wanted to present. The call for questions usually starts a flood of personal revelations. The typical "question" from a pre-schooler or first-grader is "I have a dog at home!". This is fine with me; it just took me a few times to realize that that’s how it usually goes, and now I plan for it. Some of them don’t have pets, but they want their turn in the spotlight, so they just reiterate someone else’s story, or add a slight variation. This is also okay, most of the time.
The exception (and thank goodness this has only happened once) was the time that the first pre-schooler said, "I had a dog, but he’s dead now." This was followed by a flood of "My dog is dead, too!" "So is mine!" and the variation "My cat is dead!" Every single kid in the class had a dead pet, or said he did, anyway. I remain eternally grateful that the first kid didn’t add, "…and you killed him."
With the exception of that one time, I always have a great time doing school programs. It’s interesting to find what it takes to hit the interest level of the age group you’re dealing with, or the particular group of kids. Since Hollywood has yet to call, it gives me my chance to be in the spotlight (like the kids). Sometimes they even learn something.