Through working with kids regularly, my inner child gets to reveal itself at times--the part of me that loves fantasy, that loves pretending, that loves to be silly. I found that last year, when I was a teacher full-time and responsible for keeping my students “in line” for 6 hours straight, I was uptight pretty much the entire day at school. When I would get home, the inner child that really did enjoy fun came out, occasionally. I wasn’t the ideal teacher for my students last year in part because I hardly showed the fun, relaxed, real side of me to my students. I was too stressed out and under pressure all of the time. This year is pretty much the complete opposite. I get to show my whole, loving self to the kids, and I get to be that whole person with myself as well. That feels really good, a real relief.
Two nights ago, one of my fifth-grade English students, a girl both Pete and I have become close to, approached me to tell me that she lost her tooth! I congratulated her and asked if she was going to put it under her pillow. She said that she was. Apparently, here it’s a ratoncito (little mouse) that comes and takes the tooth, rather than a fairy. One thing I love about this girl is her imagination. She’s 10 years old and has a great imagination. She enjoys playing with barbies and pretending her stuffed lion is a baby. Together, we’ve played other imaginary games with very few physical materials. I think I was a 10-year old like her. I encouraged her to put her tooth under her pillow and started secretly scheming how to be her tooth fairy (or ratoncito).
The next morning, she was waiting outside of the library for me to arrive for English class. “The tooth is still there,” she told me. “Leave it there,” I responded, remembering that I needed to take care of that. “The tooth fairy/ratoncito can come during the daytime too,” I added. Around 5 pm that day, while she was at school and things were pretty quiet at the Casa, I snuck over and asked the Social Worker if I could get into the girls bedroom. The Social Worker gave me the keys to the bedroom, and with the help of the girl’s older sister, I found her bed, where the tooth was laying on a little styrofoam plate next to her pillow. I took the plate and placed five pesos under her pillow. What do I do with this tooth?! I thought to myself. I quickly left the room, returned the keys, and took the tooth back home. Success! I wrapped the tooth in a little tissue and set it on my dresser. Maybe I’ll give it back to her when we leave in May. It will be ok then for her to discover my secret.
Today in English class, she told me her tooth was gone. I gave her a thumbs up and a smile. “Do you believe the ratoncito exists?” she asked me. “I like to believe it does,” I responded.