For couple of summers, I worked for a company that teaches students how to read. It’s kind of one of those last resorts for parents who have tried everything else. They teach children that no one else can teach. And they do it well. It was an incredibly humbling experience. Not only did I teach children, teenagers, and even some adults how to read…I taught them how to comprehend. Sometimes I really miss that place.
What may surprise you is that for some people, understanding what they’re reading goes hand in hand with understanding consequences. Perhaps the young 20-something who keeps ending up in jail for stupid reasons could have benefited from the program that I have come to know and understand. Of course, it’s a lot of fun teaching some of the life lessons that everyone should know. Here is one of my favorites. Be forewarned, it’s a little gross.
Wash Your Hands
Calia (named obviously changed to protect the innocent), an 8 year old who came to us unable to read the word, “smart,” eventually got to a point where we were solely working on her comprehension. She became an excellent reader. When Calia first started, she didn’t want to work at all, she crawled under the table, and she was really mean to most of the teachers – calling us names, saying rude things about other students, herself, and the teachers. By the end of her time with us, Calia was understanding and making conclusions/inferences based on her reading. She had made friends with some of the students and I can even remember her hugging me when she did something super awesome as far as reading. During one of her later work sessions, she and I were having a pretty interesting conversation about cleanliness.
Calia was constantly playing with her feet. Picking them. Putting pens and other items in her shoes. Putting feet in the teacher’s faces… So I explained to her, “Calia, sometimes the little kids here put this stuff in their mouths. Do you think that it’s a good idea for your feet to have touched them? It’s like putting your feet in their mouth. Would you want someone’s feet in your mouth?”
She thought for just a minute before she said, “No! That’s gross!”
“Exactly. Our feet are pretty dirty right?” I asked her to see if she would understand further…
“Yeah, our whole bodies are dirty, aren’t they?”
“Well, yes and no. Our feet are dirtier, because they walk on the ground a lot, don’t they?”
“Yeah, I don’t really like wearing shoes.” She said, as her shoes lay in a pile on the floor.
“But would you want them in your mouth?”
“No, probably not. But sometimes I pick my nose and put boogers in my mouth.”
ew. Ew. EW.
“Well, let’s think about about our hands for a minute. Are they cleaner than our feet?”
“Yes!” She said as if I was asking her the stupidest question in the world. Almost a Duh! moment.
“Right, because we wash our hands a lot. We wash our hands all day. Every time we go to the bathroom, right?”
Knowing she had just come from the bathroom a few moments earlier, “Did you wash your hands in the bathroom today?”
“Of course! I always wash my hands. Sometimes, when I’m at home though…I don’t.” Calia admitted to me.
“Well, your mom is a doctor, right?”
“And she sees sick people and makes them better, right?”
“Yeah!” Her smile beamed with pride for her mom.
“So, sometimes people get sick because they don’t wash their hands and then touch part of their body and the germs get inside.”
“Did you know that the inside of your nose is inside your body?”
“I didn’t know that!” She started getting really excited.
“So when you pick your nose, you’re putting the germs from your hand into your body.”
“I need to go wash my hands.”