Going Back

In the sea of elementary school faces I knew I’d be able to recognize at least his. But where was he. It’d been over a year since I’d been here, and I desperately wanted to see at least one of the children I worked with last year. I didn’t expect them to recognize me or even notice me, I just wanted to see that they were still here.

There he is, being his typical self. The teacher just pulled Synika off the floor and on to his lap. Some things never change. The Synika I remember would have had trouble sitting through an assembly, too. He looked just the same with his mop of long, brown hair, dark skin, and anxious eyes. But he did look a little bit older, a little bit more controlled. After a few minutes the teacher let Synika slide to the floor and then ruffled his hair.

The very sight of him relieved me. That means he made it. He passed kindergarten and was probably about to pass the first grade. It’s not that he’s not smart. He’s just not very disciplined. If you can make such judgements about kindergartners, he’s the kind of kid you’d expect to drop out of high school. Or more likely get kicked out. But those kind of judgements aren’t very fair. Synika deserves more than that.

I turned back to the unruly bunch of kindergartners I was sitting with. I couldn’t help but smile. They were all raising their hands and jumping up and down hoping to win the prizes the principal was passing out. These kids do deserve more than they get. They deserve more credit than my initial judgement is willing to give them, and they deserve more credit than society at large gives them. They’re not any different than the rich, suburban, white elementary school kids I grew up with.

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