Chapter Four: Kayla
Kayla’s mom is sure that the school is safe. There are policies and laws in place to ensure that. She knows her teacher is a nice lady that treats her students kindly.
She tells her little one that she loves her just one more time as she wraps a scarf around her neck. She watches through the window as Kayla skips to the corner to catch the bus. She sees her little form through the bus windows as she makes her way to a seat. She is growing so quickly. She is learning so much. Her mother is already looking forward to seeing Kayla hop down the stairs of the bus and come skipping home to bubble over with the day’s experiences.
“Look at her hair,” she hears a classmate say to another as she walks down the hall toward the classroom. “What a weirdo.”
She enters the classroom, ready for the day. Her teacher greets her as she gets to her desk. The bell rings. Her friend Jane sits three desks up on the same row. Jane turns around and says “hi”. The school day has begun.
Today is special because it is Kayla’s turn to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. She notices some giggles flutter over the class when the teacher calls her to the front to lead the Pledge. Her important task complete, she returns to her seat.
“Does the water at your house work?” the boy sitting behind her asks seriously.
“Yes,” Kayla replies.
“Then why don’t you take a bath. You smell.” The teacher scolds the group of chittering students. Kayla smiles feebly.
“Alright, kids, time for ’50-in-a-minute’,” the teacher announces brightly. “Get out your pencils.” One minute passes and Kayla is able to get a sparkling sticker by her name on the chart in front of the class.
“I can’t believe she passed,” a little girl whispers to no one in particular.
Reading follows, then Science. Kayla finishes the last Science question as the bell rings for recess. It is announced that recess will be inside today. She and Jane walk hand in hand to the gym. They talk and giggle. They run and play. The bell rings and all move back down the halls to their classrooms. A boy walks by Kayla and bumps into her. She doesn’t take it too seriously. That boy is mean to everyone.
Art class is next. Kayla goes to the media room where tables are set up. There are always fun projects involving colorful paper, crayons, glue and scissors. Sometimes there’s even glitter.
On the way to the media room a little girl runs by Kayla. “Idiot,” she says as she goes by (That’s the censored version). No big deal. That girl is mean to everyone too. She’s even mean to the mean boy. Kayla enters the media room. The tables have piles of exciting materials ready to be made into wonderful creations.
“Find a seat,” the librarian says, “we’re going to make cards for your parents for Valentine’s Day.” A murmur of approval and excitement rolls through the class. “Come on, kids, find a seat so we can get started.”
There is some milling around to find a seat. Kayla moves towards an empty one. There are already some girls seated at the table. They all shake their heads “no”. Embarrassed, she walks to the table where her friend Jane is sitting. The chairs are all occupied. There is a twinge of panic as all the chairs are filling up. She can only see one chair left. All boys. She longingly scans the room one last time.
“For goodness sakes, Kayla, the whole class is waiting. Please take a seat!”
“Yeah, sit down!” a voice calls out. Kayla is the only one standing.
“Sit!” one of the little girls at the table where Kayla had tried to sit down calls out. Kayla walks over to the boys’ table and sits down.
“Oh great,” one of them sighs.
All the boys share exasperated sighs. Kayla looks over to the table where Jane is sitting. She is already laughing and cutting, gluing and glittering. Kayla ignores the boys and goes to work on her masterpiece. She is thinking of her mom as she carefully cuts out a heart. She decorates it with flourishes of words and colors. Lost in her creation, she is surprised when the librarian calls out that time is up. Just one finishing touch will make the Valentine perfect.
“I said time up!” The librarian stands right over Kayla. “Why are you so slow?”
With everything cleaned up, the librarian tells the children to each take a turn and show the class their Valentines. Kayla is particularly pleased with her masterpiece. She can imagine the look on her mom’s face when she presents it to her. When her name is called, she holds it up. There is giggling at one of the tables. Kayla’s face warms. She thinks they are giggling at her masterpiece.
Lunchtime is announced. The class lines up at the door. Kayla walks up to where Jane is standing in line. They smile at each other and nod at each other’s cards with approval.
“Hey, she’s butting in line!” One of the little girls had been eyeing Kayla and Jane.
“My goodness, you have a hard time keeping rules, don’t you?” The librarian sends Kayla to the back of the line…with the boys.
Do we need to follow Kayla to the cafeteria to know what happens to her there? Will the teacher scold her again when she shouts at the little girl that pulls her hair? Do we need to explain which playground games she is not allowed to play? Do you need a description of how it goes for Kayla when her teacher asks her to spell a word in front of the class? Can you imagine the relief Kayla feels when the bell finally rings for school to let out?
Her mom is waiting at the door as the bus pulls up to the corner. She gives Kayla a hug.
“Hi, sweetheart! How was your day?”
“Oh that’s good. I made you some cookies. They’re still warm.”
“I made this for you.” Kayla hands her mom the Valentine.
“It’s beautiful, Kayla. Thank-you.”
Kayla’s mom will never really understand what Kayla’s day was like. Even if she gets Kayla to tell her, can she understand it as a little person? The next morning her mom notices how sweet she looks all bundled up, ready for school. But Kayla doesn’t skip to the bus…
The Public School is a giant chicken coop. One of the behaviors of chickens is to single out one chicken to pick at. They might perceive a difference or weakness. Sometimes it’s not apparent why they choose the one they do to start pecking at it. When the feathers are nearly picked off, the rest in the coop continue their work until her skin bleeds. The little beat up chicken might just stop trying to get away and resign herself to her fate. If you get treated like an animal long enough, you’ll start acting like one.
When people, even little people are confined and deprived of some basic human needs, they will do cruel things that they might not otherwise do. The little chickens have no choice about being cooped up. Kayla was the one singled out. But I had also seen Kayla join in at pecking when the rest in the coop turned their attention to another. Yes, Kayla is a real person as are the others you’ve read about so far.
How would your little one adjust to life in the coop? Would he be pecked at, or would he do the pecking? Are you willing to force him into the situation?