Odd experience at a school in Southern Ontario yesterday, chatting to a gym pretty much full of kindergarteners. They were giggling and wiggling on the polished wooden floor (it was an old-school school) and I strode up and down among them, a storytelling Gulliver. All very typical. Except that the kids wouldn't do what they were told. I had established an aisle down the middle of the group, and, about halfway through my story, one of the Lilliputian scrawled over to block the aisle. I asked her to move, and she paused, then shook her head. Still smiling. Did she not understand? "Please?" I said, and finally she skooched over to let me past. Immediately two little fellows, round and happy, rolled into the aisle and sat there, arms linked, grinning up at me. Made me laugh. I bent down, and gently moved them out of the way -- a harder task than I thought it would be. They actually struggled, giggling the while. They knew what they were doing, all right.
Interesting, because kindergarteners, though goofy, tend to do what they are asked. That's what school is all about, no? Training the young to follow orders. To understand when a grown up is serious. Well, these guys weren't getting it.
It takes a meaner man than I am to yell at little kids having fun (unless sharp edges or valuable electronics are involved). I shook my head and resumed my story, but I didn't get far. After reading a sentence or two, I looked down and found myself surrounded. My aisle had vanished. As far as I could see were laughing kindergarteners. My Gulliver analogy was apter than I had originally thought.
I held my hands up for silence, and they shut up immediately. "Could you guys go back to where you were?" I said.
Oh, how that made them laugh.
"I don't want to step on you." I said.
"No, seriously," I said.
The laughter intensified. They were killing themselves.
Now, don't get me wrong. I was pleased to have an appreciative audience. I mean, these were not even really good jokes. But I was aware of losing control of the situation. I looked over at the teachers, who were laughing with the kids. Did they think this was part of my act?
"Help!" I said.
That did it. A raking wave of laughter swamped the gym. Teachers, kids, the custodian, woman in a suit who looked like a principal or school trustee -- everyone in the gym threw their hands in the air and howled.
When you find yourself trapped by your own success, there is only one thing to do. I gave up, and let them have their way with me. No, they didn't knock me down and tie me to the gym floor, but the rest of my presentation was ... um ... unstructured.
After the bell rang, I accepted the congratulations and coffee mug with an outward smile and an inward shiver. I can't help wondering what kind of presentation I'll be giving these kids when they get to high school. As I recall, Gulliver did not have a whole lot of fun in Brobdingnag.