Gloria joined the classroom this week, and oh what a homecoming it was. I doubt Santa Claus would receive such a welcome. After all these years I am still amazed at the difference Gloria makes and how children are drawn to her. It started many years ago…
You see, Gloria is different. She is very shy and loves to wear black. She’s not pretty on the outside, but she’s beautiful on the inside. I knew that in order for children to learn about the world, they needed to learn about the people in the world. And that meant introducing them to diversity… to Gloria.
Children don’t even see that she’s a puppet. The word witch is never spoken. It isn’t even a thought in their heads. They see her ‘insides’; that she needs help singing the ABC’s, that she loves Maine, that she likes to be silly, and likes to be read to. That’s what children really see.
When Gloria arrived this week, I introduced her after Morning Meeting. The tables were set up with activities for children, but no one wanted to play. They wanted to be with Gloria. First, she was the Helper of the Day. That meant she had to sing our calendar song and recognize numbers. Gulp! Gloria asked for help, and in an instant fifteen children were pressed against me and her. Gloria got through her job, and then the questions and conversations began. Interestingly, children made direct eye contact with Gloria (they always do). I was just ‘there’.
“What does Gloria like?”
“She likes us to read books to her.”
“And she likes hugs.”
“What’s Gloria going to be for Halloween?”
(Me) “I don’t know. She was Minnie Mouse once.”
“Gloria, what are you going to be for Halloween?”
(Gloria) “A ghost!”
And so it went, on and on, until we had to stop and clean up for lunch. We gave Gloria her Peace quilt and tucked her on the couch.
Gloria has become so well known that children and teachers throughout the school stop by to say hello. She has a journal of her weekends spent with children. She has been to the beach, a high school graduation, a basketball game, and Thanksgiving dinner. She has helped decorate a Christmas tree, watched a New England Patriots football game dressed in gear, gone sledding, and even made snow angels in the snow.
Many years ago she stayed in the classroom in a picnic basket. I accidently left her out one day. Thank goodness, as the children were thrilled, and there she stayed. Weekends were never a thought until Collin asked if he could take her home.
“I don’t know, Collin. She’s never had a sleepover.”
“I have a night light. She won’t be scared.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll have a talk with her.”
And, he did. Gloria had a marvelous time. Thus began many wonderful weekends, adding to children’s experiences and acceptance of others. Welcome to a new school year, Gloria.