The Girl With the Spear Pencil

There was this little girl in one of the elementary schools I taught for a semester in NY. Same place in Brooklyn I told you about last time.

Tough neighborhood, didn’t know what the little capsules carpeting the streets were then, from the bus stop to the school. Crack vials, I learnt.

The girl. 2nd grade. She has a sharp pencil, and she knows it can be weaponized. She lunges at other kids with it, like a Dahomey warrior with a spear, and misses. They are terrified. She shows no emotions.

I don’t know what to do. I’m not trained for this. I’m a teaching artist, nothing more.

Back home in Kenya, I’d done some work with kids in the streets, some high on glue. I recall a fight breaking out at one time during a program sponsored by Plan International.

One of the kids, feisty little boy, had said to another- wacha umama! And all hell broke lose. I just let them fight it out and we got back to business.

This time around, I was in a different world – an American classroom. I was thrown into situations I had no clue could become dicey. But thank god for manila paper! What a life-saving invention. Every classroom has manila paper somewhere.

I grabbed a sheet, gave it to the little girl with the spear pencil, sat her at a corner, and in a minute, she was completely absorbed in sketching. I let her be.

When I heard about the 6-yr old who shot his teacher, I thought of that little girl all those years back. A pencil can kill if you know how to go for the jugular, but it can sketch too. A gun cannot sketch.

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