06 April 2011

Story: The Mystery of the Missing Chocolate

Names in the following story have been changed to protect the innocent...and the guilty.

Yesterday, as often occurs, I had an agitated student come running up to me. She and another boy (standing about five feet behind her) began speaking simultaneously.

"Angela, he keeps..."     "No, no, she keeps..."

"Alright. Stop there. I can't hear what either of you are saying when you're talking at the same time. Now, I'm going to give both of you a chance to tell me your side of the story but when one person is talking, the other person has to be quiet, got it?" Two heads nod in consent. "Okay Agnes, what happened?" I asked Agnes to speak first because she's a very well-behaved girl and I was pretty sure that whatever she said would be a lot closer to the truth.

"Karla. She keeps...she keeps...Karla keeps bothering me," Agnes tells me in a stutter. Agnes doesn't stutter all of the time but it comes and goes depending on how agitated she is. Sometimes I think it's just her nerves (she's rather shy) but other times, I think it's because she's a non-native English speaker and is still getting a grasp of the language. You can see the wheels turning in her head when she's trying to think of how to say a particular world in English.

"Okay. Karla it's your turn now. What's up?"

"Agnes keeps trying to take chocolate from Kita. She keeps asking her for it." At this point, Agnes is vehemently shaking her head in denial. She keeps silent however because she knows that she's supposed to give Karla a chance to talk, too.

I silently do a quick scan of the room and of the kids. Agnes is standing beside me since she's the one who initially ran up to tell on Karla. Karla is facing me but she's actually standing right in front of Kita. Kita in turn is standing protectively over her backpack and looks harassed. She keeps shooting reproachful looks in Karla's direction. It seems much more likely to me that Karla has been trying to wheedle chocolate from Kita and that Agnes was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I say, "Okay. Agnes, I don't think that you were trying to take chocolate from Kita but I want to take this chance to remind everyone that we're not supposed to even have candy or junk food in the program. Agnes, you and Karla need to leave Kita alone from now, okay? Don't bother her for chocolate or anything of that sort. And Kita, you should keep the chocolate in your backpack. If you ever have candy in the program, you make sure that you keep it in your backpack and save it for home. You can eat it at home. Everybody understand?" Three heads nod in assent. I hoped that the matter had been taken care of but a part of me (the part of me that's had plenty of experience working with kiddies) knew better.

An hour later, I notice that Kita is teary eyed and upset. She's a kindergarten student and is one of those kids who's extremely cute; you're inclined to have a soft spot for her. Kita walks up to one of my coworkers and starts crying outright. She keeps saying, "I...want...my candy back. I...want...my candy."

"What candy?" my coworker asks. I'm too far away to hear the entire exchange but my coworker wraps an arm around Kita and leans in to hear what she's saying. I hear her coo a couple of times, "It's okay Kita, don't cry. Don't cry now." A few moments later, my coworker's head snaps up and she yells, "Karla, come here right now!" Karla hesitantly approaches.

"Karla, where is the chocolate?"

Karla looks like she's about to speak but you can tell that she's scared stiff (likely out of guilt), so she instead shakes her head in answer.

"I don't understand what you mean by that Karla. Where is the chocolate?" my coworker demands.

"I don't have it. I didn't take it," Karla replies.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Are you 100% sure?" My coworker gives Karla a measured gaze. I'm very bad at threatening kids into compliance but my coworker is quite skilled in this department. She tells Karla something along the lines of, "You'd better tell me the truth right now because if I find out that you're lying to me then I'll make sure that blank blank happens and that you don't ever ever get to blank again." (You can fill in the blanks.)

Karla now looks very worried indeed. A hush has descended over our entire program as all of our kids listen in to see how this situation will play out.

"Bring me your backpack Karla."

Karla grabs her backpack and hands it over. My coworker starts searching through it for the chocolate. While she's working her way through the second compartment, Karla blurts out, "I don't have it anymore. I gave it to Enrique!"

All eyes turn to Enrique. "I don't have it! I gave it to Sam."

All eyes turn to Sam. "I don't have it! I gave it to Jacob."

All eyes turn to Jacob. "I don't have it anymore. I ate it."

More silence ensues. My coworker starts to lecture the program at large about why we don't want them to have candy while they're with us. During her tirade, an anonymous voice floats through the air and reveals that, "The candy wasn't Kita's anyway. Denise gave it to her."

My coworker turns to Kita. She has dropped her arm from around the girl's shoulders. "Is that true?"

Teary eyed Kita nods her head. My coworker is not happy. "Wipe your eyes and stop crying right now," she commands. She turns back to address all of our kids and continues her lecture. Once she is done, everyone goes back to their task or activity.

Later on during the day, after all of the kids have finished their homework, after all of the kids have eaten their snack, and while most of the kids are playing outside, I am cleaning up the room. Whenever I clean up, I make sure to pay close attention to the areas where kids like to hide things they want to keep away from others. Our kids love to hide coveted toys, like legos, in (or under) the bookshelves. It is while I am clearing up the bookshelves that I find a violet-colored, foil chocolate candy wrapper. It has an Easter bunny printed on it.

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