I volunteer two mornings in Will’s kindergarten class. On Monday’s, I often do busy work for the teacher like cutting and pasting projects that will be displayed on the classroom wall. Or assist the teacher monitoring the kids working on a worksheet. And Tuesday’s, I spend 30 minutes with two ELL (English language learners) students, reviewing some basic skills. Counting, repeating the ABC’s. No problem.
Last Monday, I walked into the classroom and the teacher handed me a tray with nails and hammers and said, “glad you are here, you can help the kids hammer.” I kept me mouth shut but screamed inside, “help the 5 year old children do what?!?”
These hammers were not the plastic type I’d expect but smaller versions of the real thing. The type of hammer heavy enough that one could do real damage, to tiny fingers.
I was taken outside to a picnic table with 6 students. The teacher gave each a hammer and their two pieces of wood. My instructions were to pass out the nails and help them nail the two pieces together. It wasn’t spoken, but I heard the instructions as “do let allow the children to hammer their fingers together or to the picnic table”. Why hammering? This is nuts.
They were studying wood as part of a science project.
Luckily, none of the students were enthusiastic enough to start, they each just stared blankly at me as I passed out the nails. To get the ball rolling, I hammered each nail into the wood just enough to hold its place and told them to finish the job.
The next few minutes were a blur. In continuous motion, I circled the table, reminding the kids to “watch out for those fingers” and pulling non hammering fingers away from the nail. During the second or third lap, I heard some faint sobbing. My heart raced as I turned to see which student was mortally injured.
One student had whacked her thumb and began to whimper. Fortunately, no blood and very minor damage. I attempted to soothe her as I monitored the other students still pounding away with their hammers. No one else joined the medical triage area.
Pretty quickly, each student finished the hammering. (with some help from me to keep the nail straight) and we headed back into the classroom. I was hoping to return to my routine of cutting and pasting but the teachers greeted us with a smile and called out, “ok, next 6 students, time to go outside and hammer with Will’s dad.”
My heart raced again to a near panic.