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  • “Class, my ears are hurting now… turn your voices off and your pencils on. I should not hear any sound coming out of your mouths. Your pencils need to do the talking for you right now,” I announced to a very wiggly group of kindergarteners at the beginning of today’s Writer’s Workshop writing prompt.

    The writing prompt was to write about our class field trip to the county fair the previous day. During Writer's Workshop, the children were to write then illustrate what they saw, smelled, touched, tasted, or heard while visiting the animals and watching the special demonstrations they had taken part in just the day before.

    I noticed one little girl had been unusually quiet. I sat down in a small orange plastic seat beside her and said “Maleah, read me your story.”
    “My daddy takes me to the park…”
    Oh dear. She had missed the boat entirely but I let her continue.
    “He pushes me on the swings real high,” she read from a page filled with letters as sounds and squiggles.
    “We sit in the sandbox. And we write the name of my little brother who passed away in the sand.”
    My heart stopped.
    “See. I can write his name…T-R-E-Y. That’s his name,” she finished and sat very quietly just looking at her paper.

    Underneath her letters, diagonal slashes, and wavy lines, I penned her story in “grown up writing” for safe keeping.
    “Thank you for telling me your story. This is important for you, I can tell.”
    No fancy wording. Just a simple story from a heart unbetrayed.

    Writer’s Workshop wrapped up and the antsy group of children lined up to go outside for creative play in the field. Maleah took my hand as we walked from the back of the line as the other teacher led the class out the door.

    Outside I stood and watched the children run and scream or sit and talk. One little boy had asked me to hold onto the red leaf of a sugar maple he had found. He wanted to give it to his mom as a gift. I twirled the leaf by the stem between two fingers until another little boy asked me to fix the belt on his pants. Placing the leaf beside my foot, I threaded the little boy’s belt back through his belt loops, wondering how in the manner of five minutes time he had managed to make such a knot of himself.

    “There. You’re fixed now…off you go.” And he ran back to join in the play of his friend.
    I looked down. The red leaf had blown away. Still close beside me, Maleah and I looked around for Aiden’s red leaf but we could not find it.

    Taking my hand Maleah told me that she needed to go back inside the school to use the bathroom. I informed the other teacher manning the playground that I was going to unlock the door and walk her inside. Along the way, I saw Aiden playing with a jump rope and fessed up that I was as sorry as could be, but I had lost the red leaf for his mom. A quick look of disappointment came over his face and guilt over mine. I had almost convinced myself that I had, of course, lost the only and most beautiful red leaf in the whole wide world.

    Walking on top of the newly fallen leaves on the concrete sidewalk back to the doors leading into school, Maleah bent down and picked up another red leaf and handed it to me. “Here. You can take this and give it to Aiden so he can give a pretty leaf to his mom.”

    I squeezed her hand 3 quick times while holding back enormous tears. She squeezed my hand back 3 quick times. She looked up smiling. I looked down and smiled back while twirling the beauty of a red leaf between my fingers.
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