“You’ve got white hair. That means you’ll die in a minute.”
The little girl spoke confidently. It was nearly time for drama. I thought that one day she would make an able drama student. She was already an excellent human being.
A specialist teacher came in to take the lesson, and he soon had the six-year-olds believing that he was stuck in a bucket. You drama professionals out there will nod, but it was new to me. A version of the genie in the bottle, I suppose. There was a real bucket, with a lid. The teacher kept his head down at the side of the room. The poor man was crying for help, but the two little girls who held the bucket wouldn’t let him out. They wouldn’t take the lid off. The rest of the class was laughing wildly. The more he pleaded, the more hard-hearted the two girls became. One of them banged the bucket with a ruler as if raising an alarm. The class laughed even harder.
The other girl said that she was going to put some sharks in the bucket. Not just one shark. Her face was near the lid. She spoke the words sweetly to the man inside and waited for his cries, which everybody knew she would ignore. She waited a few more seconds, then put the sharks in.
Like adults, however, children reserve the most imaginative cruelties for each other. I had to fill in ten minutes at the end of a day with Year 5, so we did ‘pay a compliment.’ In this exercise, everyone says something nice about a different child in the room, and gives a reason. For this particular group it was not an easy task. They started to fall back on teacher. One girl liked my eye colour. One the shape of my head. Another girl picked a child who was not in class that day.
“I’d like to compliment Malia for being invisible.”