Face-painting. Morning Session. Take One.
Circle ends smoothly with no announcements of what will be happening. Today is pajama day and the teacher and the assistant fit right in, in their fun slumber attire. Children are choosing within the classroom what they want to do for activity time. Some stay at the block area, some move to Housekeeping. A few decide to do puzzles. The teacher hands me a bucket filled with paint brushes and face paint. I go wordlessly to one table, and she to another. We don't even talk about the process. Within a few minutes, we each have 1-2 students standing near, asking what we are doing. I tell the first little girl, face-painting! She smiles big and asks if she can go first. Her friend quickly says, “I'm after her.” I ask the first girl what she would like me to paint on her face and with what color/s. She chooses a star, a heart, and a pumpkin. On each cheek, I paint a pink heart, black star and a blue pumpkin. Her friend says, “Wow! Cool! Is it my turn?” The second girl sits down and asks to be a kitty. She chooses colors, and as I paint, I ask her if she has any cats. The answer is yes, and we talk about what they look like and what colors they are. I don't worry when she moves her head around a lot, instead using the “mistakes” as whiskers. The teacher, at her table, seems to be having the same experiences. We joke about who can paint spiders better, and the children join in, judging our attempts. No one is crying, the children are figuring out all on there own where the “line” is for who's next, and they talk amongst themselves about what has been painted, and what they want on their face. One little boy tells the assistant when she asks, that he doesn't want to do it. She tells him he doesn't have to, but if he changed his mind, what did he suppose he'd have painted on his face? She prods him along, asking him if he likes spiders...nope. What about a dog face? Nope. Then she says, “what do you like?” He replies with “alligators”. She then says, “I bet if you ask Lisa or teacher, they could paint a great alligator.” He smiles real big, and is soon next to me, quiet. I say, “hi T! Are you going to have a turn?” He answers quietly with yes. Without putting him on the spot by looking right at him, I ask while I'm still painting on a child's face, “did you think about what you would like?” he then says “alligator.” I pause for a second, and then get real animated with my face, but not directly at him, as I say, “an alligator?! I never would have thought of that!” he continues smiling, now ready for his turn. As I begin painting his red alligator, I talk about what alligators look like, and ask simple questions about their teeth, or tail. He gives me one-word answers, and before we know it, I'm done. I tell him quietly, so as not to draw unwanted attention to him, to go look in the mirror. He does, alone. I watch from a distance. His smile grows even bigger. His friends ask him what he has on his face and he says with pride and with a strong voice, “A Alligator.” We share a special look, and I feel my heart filling with a new bond I have begun with T!!
Face-painting. Afternoon Session. Take Two.
We are all at circle. The teacher puts on Clifford on a special-once-in-a-while TV time. The children are told to sit quietly. She gets up and goes to the table. After arranging her paints and brushes and also telling 3 children that have followed her to see what she's doing to go sit back down quietly, she picks one child to come with her. The only thing you hear in the room is Clifford jumping in a pile of leaves. What I wouldn't give to jump in too. The child gets to pick one thing to have painted, and on one cheek. It takes 3 minutes. He sits back down, and she takes child #2. One choice, one cheek. 3 minutes. This continues for the next 3 children. There is one little girl, H, that wants her turn so badly. She is sitting quiet, craning her neck to see the table, see the teacher, see the painting. She has no desire to watch Clifford who is now blowing leaves in a pile for Emily Elizabeth to jump into. Even Clifford is in tune to a child's needs. Finally, after all 9 classmates are done, the teacher picks H, who without a doubt, is the most into this activity. She is the only girl present today. Duh. She sits down after 27 minutes of waiting her turn, and she just can't decide what she wants. The teacher says, “hurry, we need to be done.” It is then that I realize face-painting and Clifford are supposed to end at the very same time. Hmm. You can see the pressure H is feeling, and she finally says, “A princess.” This is not a surprise, as H always picks out Disney princess books at library time. The teacher says, “I can't do a princess on your face, but I can on your hand.” H looks at her hand, not responding. “Quick,” the teacher says, is that what you would like? H just nods, and watches as a princess takes form on her hand. She is proud, but satisfied? I doubt it.
Same day, same activity. Two completely different experiences. I loved the chance to see both, but not at the expense of 10 children who had no opportunity to express creativity!!! I would have loved to allow the children to paint each others' faces as well. Or even my face. I bet the morning teacher would have done this, but it was lunch time, and even then, it was late!