The Tale of Mara- Tiger Girl
This is one of my favorite pieces of artwork from a student. We frequently do writing prompts over the years with students such as, “I love my mom because…” or “If I could have any pet it would be a ____ because…” I received this at graduation time from a child who had been with us since she was two and now it was her big graduation day, and it says, “I will miss Ms Jessica because, she always taught us to do the right thing.” Let’s call her Mara.
This wonderful child was a character. A smart little scholar, Mara knew all of her ABCs entering preschool at age two. She was a challenge for our teachers to place her and she was fully reading before she entered kindergarten. Mara was sometimes frustrated because she was so mature beyond her peers. She might be pouty with stormy looks one minute, but oh, if you could get her to laugh how she lit up the room with her smile and sparkling brown eyes!
A typical conversation with her at age two might go like this:
Mara asked crossing her arms and scowling, “Ms J, why is it raining?”
Ms J, “Because there’s the perfect mixture of temperature and moisture in the air. The clouds are too heavy with water and the water needs to fall to the ground.”
Mara, “Ms J, I don’t care about moisture. But WHY is it RAINING Ms J?”
Ms J, “We have to have rain so that the plants will grow and for people and animals to drink.”
Mara, “But WHY??”
Ms J, “Because it’s Tuesday.”
Mara squeals with laughter and scampers off to play.
She was a handful outside of the classroom too! Her parents told us a story of when she had been at home, back in her bedroom. She had become very quiet (time to investigate as we parents and teachers are well aware). Mara leaped into the hallway, completely naked, with stripes all over her body head to toe, courtesy of the markers in her bedroom.
“I’m a TIGER!” She yelled, showing her claws and ferocious teeth.
What were her parent to do? Laugh, compliment the artwork and put that kiddo in the bath!
Sometimes Mara struggled with empathy for her friends. She was so intelligent and very sweet, but we had many conversations over the years about why it was important to be considerate of others. To share, to use kind words, to know how to express ourselves to others when we’re mad. To know when we’ve hurt someone and be able to apologize. To not be so wrapped up in perfection that we can’t laugh at ourselves. We also talked about respecting grown ups, including teachers and her parents.
When Mara graduated, she gave me a sheepish smile and handed me this artwork. It travels now with me everywhere. It hangs in my office, copies have gone to Pierre, to DC, and given to our legislators to demonstrate why early learning is important.
What if all children were given equal opportunity to be taught to do the right thing?
What if we as adults followed Mara’s example to do our best to do the right thing?
Some might’ve gotten annoyed with Mara’s inquisitive, active nature or her restlessness in the classroom. We constantly adapted the curriculum to meet her needs. We engaged her in many meaningful in-depth conversations. We led her, and we loved her. Our conduct and integrity in all situations influenced her. Our first core value at Little Nest LLC is Integrity Matters. It’s reflected in everything we do. Anyone who doesn’t embrace this core value isn’t with us very long. At Little Nest LLC, we can promise you that to us, truly at our core, integrity matters.