So I only remember a few things about first grade.
Pick up sticks.
I loved that game and played it all the time. We didn’t have it at home and I was fascinated with trying to pick up one without moving another.
I loved how the pieces moved. Especially the horses. Still do. They jump over other pieces and move in an “L”. Always imagined it was like the armored knights on horseback in those old “B” movies jumping over hedges in a calvary charge. Very cool. Still can’t play the game worth squat but it was cool as a kid.
I’ve mentioned before I was a shy kid. So I liked those games because they were quiet. I could think and concentrate and didn’t have to talk. Kind of retreat a little. And those games attracted the few kids like me that just wanted to be. It was nice. Group interaction has never been a strong suit…. Although some today might disagree as I have gotten older.
And reading groups. I really remember reading groups.
The teacher breaks the class up by reading level and they all read different books at their appropriate level. Standard stuff.
I remember sitting in the living room and my dad stopped reading the paper and asked me what we were reading and I showed him. It was a very simple book. He frowned and started asking if everyone was reading this. It eventually came out that I had been put into the lowest of the reading groups. He frowned again. Mom said maybe it was OK. Dad shall we say … disagreed. He said he knew I could read at a much higher level. I felt sheepish and said something like “I dunno”…. Again I was in first grade here.
The next thing I knew Dad handed me his paper and asked me to read something. I asked what and he pointed to an article. So I started reading. I got to the third paragraph and stumbled on a word. He encouraged me to sound it out. So I tried… “Pal…ohs…. Sitin…in”…. Dad said good, that’s right. That felt good so I kept going. Then he said to stop for a second and he asked me what it was about. I said it was about two groups of people that didn’t like each other and were fighting over land and they had different religions. Again he said good, that’s about right.
He had handed me the New York Times front page article on the latest Isreali and Palestinian conflict in the middle east.
Dad then said that when we broke up into reading groups tomorrow to get up and go to the most advanced group. I said I wasn’t sure and he said if I got into trouble he would talk to the teacher. Advocate for me. I said OK.
The next day I went to my assigned reading group. But as we started I got up and went over to the advanced one and sat in their circle. The teacher looked at me when I sat down and asked “what are you doing here?”
I told her my dad told me to be here. She acquiesced.
She then asked me to read from the advanced book. So I picked the book up and started reading… And I kept reading… And I kept reading until I realized she was staring at me. Everyone was.
I looked up.
Her mouth was agape.
She asked: “Why haven’t you ever done that before?”
I said the truth: “You never asked me.”
As I said at the beginning I was shy and quiet and didn’t like the big noisy classroom. So I wouldn’t raise my hand. So I was never called on. So I never got the opportunity to read. I never got the opportunity to prove I could be in the advanced reading group.
You see talent is everywhere. Opportunity is not.
As an ally part of my job is to be like my Dad and advocate. To give people an opportunity. And to support them regardless of the outcome. My Dad never had to call the teacher, but he would have. And his push and my being able to say my dad told me to be there gave me the space for that opportunity to happen.
That is what allyship and inclusion are about. It’s about opportunity for everyone.
As always I hope this helps. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All the best,