Good to be me. A story for children 9-11 years old

ERIC at school in Africa

 

Eric walked along the dusty track, a stick in his hand.  He was pushing a ball along in front of him, using the bent and gnarled piece of wood. His
movements were quick and deft. He was in control of the ball. His bare feet moved steadily, avoiding any sharp obstacles along the way. If the ball hit a stone and bounced to one side, he quickly drew it back in front of him, rolling it along the track. He had some hard thinking to do.

Eric’s African life was tough compared to many children in the world. He was eleven years of age and was lucky enough to go to school. Many of the children in his area did not get an education. Eric thought that he was fortunate. He decided to make the most of his life. He was wise for his years.

As he was the eldest boy in his family and his mother and father were both dead, he felt responsible for the care of his brothers and sisters. His grandmother looked after the family, but she could not do everything. The children had to help themselves and each other, or the family would not survive. Luckily they had a piece of ground large enough to grow  food to feed them all, as long as there was rain to water the crops. There was little time for play. Even the small ones had jobs to do to help their grandma prepare their food, or looking after the few animals that they kept.

Eric’s sister, Tete, helped to grind the maize to make mealy meal. This is the porridge that was their main food every day. They could have eggs once a week. The extra eggs were sold to help to pay for Eric’s schooling.

Tete and the twins, who were only six, did all sorts of little jobs for grandma. She wasn’t very strong herself, but she could tell the children what to do and show them how to do it, and somehow the family got by. They were very proud of Eric. He would be the one who would be able to earn money for the family because he was going to school.  His class was held underneath a canopy on a verandah next to the school house. Another class took lessons inside the school. There were fifty children under the canopy, all trying hard to learn to read and write. The teacher was very good. He told them interesting stories and made them laugh. He was also very strict. There were very few books in the school, and hardly any paper and pencils. All the work was done on slates which were scraped with soft stones to make letters or numbers. Then they were wiped with a damp cloth to erase the work.

Eric could read and write better than anybody in his class. He found he was very good with number work too. He had a quick mind. One of the teachers said she  would like Eric to help in the market on a Saturday. She promised to pay him well so that he could help his family to buy clothes.

Eric went home to tell his grandmother what the teacher had asked him to do. Grandmother looked sad. “Who will hoe the ground and plant the maize seeds if you are away all week at school, and on Saturdays too? You know your sisters are not strong enough to lift the hoe. Your teacher does not realise that we must have food before we can think about new clothes.”

Eric was angry and upset. He had been very pleased when the teacher had asked him to work at the market. Now his grandma was refusing to let him go. He needed to have a long think about the situation. He picked up his gnarled old stick and his ball and, keeping it carefully under his control, he went to the river bank.

Eric sat on a log. He could hear the hippos grunting and grumbling in the distance. He picked up a stone and flung it as hard as he could across the water. It bounced sixteen times. That was a record for him. Suddenly his anger melted away. He realised that it was good to be wanted and needed. It was good that he could help his family and there would be time enough for earning money when his brothers and sisters were able to do the kind of work that he had to do now. He loved his family and did not want them to go hungry just because he wanted to work at the market. After all, he was top of the class. When he was old enough he would get a much better job altogether.

Eric walked home as the sun began to set. His bad temper had gone and he felt contented with his life. He decided to apologise to his grandma for being thoughtless and rude and to tell her he loved her for taking care of all of them.

 

QUESTIONS:

 

1.    How did you feel when you heard this story?

2.    Did it remind you of anything in your own life?

3.    What kind of a person do you think Eric was?

4.    How did his brothers and sisters help the family?

5.    In Africa there are many schools like Eric’s. How do you think the teacher would deal with bad behaviour, such as bullying, in a class of 50 pupils?

6.    How did Eric control his temper?

7.    What do you do if you are angry?

8.    Eric was contented with his life. Are you contented with your life?

Red Robbie ( a story for 9-11 year olds on non violence)

Red Robbie

Many years ago, in the time when your great grandmother was young, there lived in Scotland a young man called Fergus MacTavish and his brother, Robert.  They lived in Glasgow in an area called the Gorbals. It was infamous for its poverty and violence. Fergus had a large family – three brothers and two sisters. His father worked in the shipyards and his mother worked as a cleaner for some ladies in Bearsden.

Life was hard for the family. There was little money in spite of their parents’ hard work. They never had new clothes. Sometimes the ladies who Mrs. MacTavish worked for would give her clothes they no longer wanted. They were always far too big for her children and they had to be cut down to size.  Some of the women were very good at making new clothes out of old ones, but Fergus’s mother had never really mastered the art of sewing. She was quite handy with the scissors though. She would snip away at a pair of trousers until they were the right length for her ‘biggest lad’ as she called Fergus. When he grew out of them, they would fit the second boy, and so on, down the line of four boys.  The youngest boy, Robbie, was always a sight – a real scruffy lad.  It wasn’t his fault that he was so untidy.

Robbie had a crop of red curly hair and a real temper to go with it. People called him Red Robbie and woe betide anyone who teased him about his appearance or anything else.  Hid dad used to say to him, “You have to stand up for yourself, laddie, because nobody else will.”

Being so small and scruffy, Red Robbie did find himself the target of other lads jokes and remarks, especially at the beginning of the school year when many of the boys had new schools uniforms or at least, clothes that fitted them properly, but not Robbie. He held his oversized trousers up with a belt pulled in to his narrow little waist making lots of pleats where they should have fitted and been smooth. The trousers always looked as if they had half a dozen extra pockets in them.

Many an unsuspecting bigger boy would taunt him “What d’ye have in yer pocket, laddie?” and reaching into one of the pockets in the material to pinch Robbie, he would have a shock. It would be the last time the boy ever tried that trick on Robbie. Robbie would not take any nonsense. He had hard little fists and he was not afraid to use them.

As he grew older he had hard big fists and he began to enjoy using them. He had an expression, “Fists first, ask questions later.” People were afraid of Robbie. They kept their distance from him.

He noticed how his brothers always had friends, and girlfriends too. They got Saturday jobs and earned pocket money and went out to the pictures with their pals. They always seemed to be joking and laughing – whereas Robbie was always cross, always looking for trouble and ready for a fight.

Robbie’s elder brother, Fergus, had a girlfriend called Kathy. She was a lovely girl. She too had lots of red curls. Sometimes when she was waiting for Fergus to come home from his Saturday job, she would chat to Robbie. She was the only girl Robbie ever spoke to. Somehow his rough manner put the girls off and boys too, for that matter. Kathy could see that Robbie was unhappy.  One day she asked him why he was always scowling and angry.

Robbie blushed. He jumped to his feet and held out his fists as if he was going to hit Kathy. “Fists first, ask questions later,” he said.

Kathy knew he would never hit her. They were friends. Suddenly she understood. She knew how poor the family had been when the kids were small. She looked at Robbie and noticed how scruffy he was, and yet his family had enough money these days. Robbie had got into the habit of defending himself so fiercely that he had learnt to attack even before he had good reason to – just in case. In the same way he had got into the habit of always wearing old clothes and looking scruffy.

Robbie’s chats with Kathy helped him to understand that violence was no way to make friends. He needed to learn to give people a chance and not to think they were all out to get at him. He also learned to start to take pride in his appearance. Being neat and clean helped him to look more approachable to other people. He learnt to make friends and he became a much happier person.

QUESTIONS:

1.       How did you feel when you heard this story?

2.       Did it remind you of anything in your own life?

3.       How many people had worn the trousers before Robbie got them?

4.       Why did Robbie get teased?

5.       What did Robbie’s father advise him to do?

6.       How did Robbie stand up for himself?

7.       Could Robbie have done it in a better way?

8.       What did Kathy teach him?

This story was written for the Education in Human Values scheme (bisse.org.uk)

A story for a very angry young girl (for 8-11yrs, dealing with anger)

A story for E’s client

A woman wearing tartan skirt and shawl came to tell me about her life as a young child.

A story for a very angry young girl

Hello, my name is Mrs McIver, Mary McIver. You can call me Mary. I’ve come to tell you about myself. When I was a young lassie I had red hair and freckles. My family looked different from me. My mum and dad had straight brown hair. My brothers had blond hair, but I had reddish curls and lots of freckles. Sometimes they teased me and I used to get cross. I used to shout at them when they said I needed a good wash in the burn (stream) to get rid of them. I knew I was clean. They knew I was clean. Why did they tease me? Families can be like that sometimes. They like to give you a label. My sister was known as ‘the quiet one’. One of my brothers was ‘the rowdy one’, the other was ‘the clever one’. I was ‘the angry one’. They used to say it was because I had red hair, and that would mean I would be a cross kind of person. I had a friend in school that had red hair too, and freckles. At least she wouldn’t tease me. I didn’t used to get cross with her. She was lovely. We used to play such great games. We had trees in our playground. We pretended we had horses and we would gallop in and out of the trees and tie our horses up to the tree we called our stable. She was called Dianne.

One Day I heard that Dianne had left my school. She just disappeared. I was so upset. Who could I play with now? The other kids all seemed to have their own friends. They didn’t want me. My brother ‘the rowdy one’ didn’t help. He and his pals came over to me sitting alone on the step in the playground. He didn’t know about my friend leaving.

“What’s the matter with you, misery guts?” he asked.

I couldn’t tell him I was so upset, but instead of being upset I put on my fiercest face and I said ‘Get lost, I hate you!’

My brother turned round to his friend and said, “It’s no wonder she hasn’t got any friends. I told you she was always angry.”

It was just not true. But I had discovered that being angry instead of being upset made me feel a bit less upset. So I used to get angry every time I was upset. Instead of crying and explaining why I was upset I would just get very, very angry. People would turn away instead of helping me to sort out what was upsetting me. They didn’t like it when I was angry.

The very angry girl

It was little things that made me angry – like when my brothers or my sister seemed to get more of something than I did. Or if they had a chance to go somewhere or do something and I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I just screamed. I used to get into such a state. I’d hammer on the walls and stamp my feet. I’d get sent up to my room. I’d feel like I was burning up inside. If anyone came to see how I was I’d throw something at them. I only felt better after I’d had a sleep. Then I’d want to forget about it and I’d be OK until the next time. I thought it was all right to do what I did. Nobody seemed to think I could change.

But one day my Grandma’s sister came to stay. I had only met her once before. My family always said she was a ‘good listener’. I was in one of my terrible moods, shut in my room. I heard her voice outside my door. I didn’t think I should chuck anything at her. She wasn’t really in my close family so I thought I mustn’t be horrible to her. When she came in she just sat on my bed and reached out her hand for mine. I let her take my hand and I felt all the anger and tightness in my chest just turn into tears and sobs. I thought she, if anyone, would listen to me. I told her about my red hair and my friend leaving, and being lonely. She listened to it all.

“Ah,” she said,” Don’t you think your Ma and Pa would like to hear about this? Would you like me to tell them in case it makes you angry again?”

I let her tell my Mum and Dad. When they came into my room there was a different look on their faces. First I hugged my Mum and then I hugged my Dad.

“Shall we all start again?” asked my Mum. “No more name calling. If I’m upset I’ll tell you why, and if you’re upset, you’ll tell me why. Is it a deal?”

“Yes, Mum,” I said.

It made such a difference to me. I can’t say I never got angry again, but I wasn’t afraid to tell people how I was feeling anymore. I never needed to scream and shout and shut myself in my room again. I found some new friends and I did have a happy life.

Questions

1. What did Mary’s family expect Mary to be like?

2. What name was she given in the family?  

3. Did other members of the family also have ‘names’? Do you remember any of them, for example one was ‘The noisy one’.

4. How might it affect a person if they are given a label, or a teasing ‘nick name’, eg. ‘the angry one’

5. How did they tease Mary?  Was that fair?

6. How did Mary act when they teased her unfairly?

7. Who noticed that Mary’s problem could be solved, and what did that person do to help?

8. How did Mary act after she and her family had a new agreement, and what was the agreement?

9. Does the story remind you of anything in your life?