“Gloria”

Gloria NecklaceGloria is perhaps the kindest and most beloved member of my class.  She has been around for quite some time, and she returned to school this week.  The children were… well, a bit unsure at first.  After all, Gloria is different.  She is terribly shy, and it took some coaxing to get her to look at the children and talk.  Once she did, children were wide-eyed.  They stared- they had never seen anyone quite like Gloria before.  Slowly, each one greeted Gloria by coming forward to shake her hand.  One child looked directly into her eyes to ask why she didn’t want to talk.  Multiple children had conversations and questions.  “Gloria, why is your hair like that?”  “Do you have teeth?”  “Gloria, are you okay?”  Some children gave her a hug and a kiss.  Savannah told her she liked her necklace.  And Gloria told the children all about herself.

Give Gloria five minutes, and children want to hold her, talk with her and play with her.  She has a way with children.

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It all started many years ago.  I was trying to bring an element of diversity into my classroom; a difficult prospect in my community back then, particularly with young children.  When I saw Gloria, there was no doubt she was it– someone who was different and could help children see, or better yet, become blind to her many differences.

I never expected what would evolve.

Gloria would come to visit every week or so.  She lived in a picnic basket above the cabinets.  With every visit she projected her worries and her shyness and also her big heart.  Children just loved that.  They understood Gloria, because she was exactly like them.  What began to happen?  Children were forgetting their own worries and caring more for someone else.  Children are egocentric by nature, yet not with Gloria.

Then one day I forgot to put Gloria back into her picnic basket.  She was sitting in the big rocking chair when we came back inside from the playground.  I didn’t notice, but the children did!  A crowd gathered around the rocking chair and began asking her questions and talking away.

Eye-to-eye contact, important conversations, every child.  This was big.  After that day Gloria lived on the couch.

I took Colin to the bathroom later that week.  He looked pensive.

“Jennie, can Gloria come to my house for a sleepover?”

“Oh, Colin.  I don’t know.  She’s never had a sleepover before.”

“I have a night light.  She won’t be scared.”

“I’m really not sure, Colin.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll have a talk with her.”

He did!  Gloria had her first of many sleepovers.  Since then, she has been everywhere with children; vacationing, trick-or-treating, high school graduations and basketball games, holidays to help decorate a Christmas tree, the movies, and camping.  She is a true friend and quite an important member of the class.

This week with Gloria was just as exciting and meaningful and tender as ever.  Gloria seems to work magic, bringing out the best in everyone.

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Gloria designed the quilt that is my blog photo.  She has her own peace quilt, and children wanted to create one, too.  It now hangs in a national museum.  I have written about the quilt and also about Gloria on my blog.  So important!

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Diversity, Early Education, Kindness, Peace, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to “Gloria”

  1. I’ve found that it takes so very little effort to bring out generosity, joy, and compassion in children. They are true world citizens. 😀

  2. What a wonderful way to teach children so many things and to get them to open up and communicate. I love this. Don’t think my children or I ever had a teacher quite like you. Those are some lucky students.

  3. reocochran says:

    Bringing a Gloria into the classroom, who was timid was a great idea! How else to bring out the quiet ones? 🙂
    Now, when you say Gloria designed your quilt piece gravatar, this is confusing. Is Gloria based on someone else? Or is this just teasing us, since she is your inner quiet self?
    I loved when students wanted to take our class room “tools” such as puppets, stuffed animals, pilgrim’s apron or dinosaur home. Paddington Bear was definitely one of the special “guests” in our classroom.
    When I was growing up, I loved Winnie the Pooh, his friends filed my imaginary play and at night, he held my hand sometimes. My own kids felt Tigger was special since although he was a troublemaker and a bouncy, never sit still character, he was much loved. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Robin. Yes, it was Gloria who helped children design the quilt. It now hangs at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia, across the street from Carpenter’s Hall. The photo of the quilt is what I use on my blog. She showed children her own blankie, told them it made her feel peaceful and it was actually a peace quilt, not a blankie. The children loved that! They came up with their own ideas on what made them feel peaceful; that turned into a book, and then into the quilt. Emergent curriculum, building upon the interests of the children. Now, this whole evolution took a year. Gloria got the ball rolling. Puppets and stuffed animals are truly the best tools for helping children grow. Those with a personality are my favorites as well. I love that yours took them home, too!

      • reocochran says:

        Oh my, Jennie! I am so astounded and proud of this Peace quilt. I don’t think I ever read this with a discerning eye or overlooked this amazing feat you allowed to grow and develop in the children’s mind. This took a lot of time to carefully initiate and then, wait and watch the results. ❤

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, that is just what happened. What a treat to see where the journey would end. Thanks, Robin! I’m glad you know the backstory.

  4. magarisa says:

    What a wonderful idea!

  5. Yu/stan/kema says:

    Great idea. Great post.

  6. What a beautiful story, Jennie!

  7. Gloria is adorable! What a great way to spur children’s imaginations.

  8. Roxie says:

    Love this! Gloria is fabulous, oh the things she shares with the children will stay with them forever. Your work with them is inspiring, thank you for giving so much to the future of our world!

  9. So often I have a comment ready in my mind before I read the others and then discover it’s already been said, but since Gloria seems so special, I’ll say it again, she’s ADORABLE! How wonderful for her and for your students to have this time to learn about each other. Enjoy the season!

  10. I love this and I love Gloria too! I am totally taken with this way of teaching and it is so wonderful, creative, and helps children probably more than mere words could ever say! You are an amazing teacher. I wish you had been one of my teachers when I was that age or actually any age! 🙂

  11. Pingback: “Gloria” | Midnight In The Garden

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  13. Oh Jennie I so so Loooove Gloria… How wonderful that you introduced her and I felt her charm straight away as her energy poured through my PC into my heart. 🙂
    At my own granddaughters school they have a Care Bear.. who goes home with children in a roto system I think.. They share their weekends with Care Bear and have to write stories of what they have been up together..
    But I so love Gloria … 🙂 And all of the wonderful work you do Jennie xxx

  14. John Kraft says:

    Wonderful! !!

    Thank you for sharing Gloria.

    John

    • Jennie says:

      You are welcome, John! By the way, she will be going going trick-or-treating this year with a child in my class. He has the perfect costume for her–a baby cow. I may need to write about this on my blog.

  15. Oh, Jennie, this is so touching. Thank you for sharing. What a creative way to bring diversity into the classroom. What big hearts your kids have. Blessings to all (including Gloria).
    Loving,
    Debbie
    PS – the photos with the kids and Gloria are precious!

  16. Gloria is so cute. What a great way to get kids to communicate and show empathy. You are such a great teacher.

  17. beetleypete says:

    Reblogged this on beetleypete and commented:
    I received this as a guest post from Jennie. She is a committed blogger from America, and a real part of the community that is blogging too. I decided to re-blog the post instead, to keep the images in context, and get across the spirit behind the subject. So here she is, Gloria!
    There is lots more to see on Jennie’s site, so I hope that you find much to enjoy.

  18. Reblogged this on Kate McClelland and commented:
    What a fantastic lady Gloria is. How wonderful that the children are so kind to her. There should be a lot more ‘Gloria’s’ in the world.

  19. I love this story! Jennie, what a treasure you are. Isn’t it great when something so unexpected takes on a life of its own?

  20. Thanks to Beetleypete, I found this post that he posted on his Guest post section. What a delightful read and I’ve followed your blog as well.. Have a great weekend, Laura

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