Three of my experiences in 4th and 5th grade classrooms as an ALIVE Presenter
by Patsy Almeida
MY FIRST PRESENTATION
My friend, Beverly Abbott had been trying to convince me to become part of the Alive program. She told me, "Pat, you would be a natural, you relate so well with children, you were a teacher, come on, just come and watch my brother Terry and I, and you'll get a feel for what it is about." I was really scared, I felt confident to read stories to kids, or do a science project, but don't ask me to talk about child abuse. She finally wore me down, and I agreed to come and watch her and Terry O'Neil do a presentation. It was the second session. Bev led the first half, and Terry went up front to discuss the letters the children had written from the first week. He pulled six or seven letters from the envelop and began to read them aloud. "Thanks for coming Mr. O'Neil, we really liked the Alive program." "Thank you, I learned a lot about Child Abuse." "Your presentation was great, thanks, for coming." All of the letters were like that.
A couple of weeks later, I went to a training session, and agreed to present with Beverly. The first week I was supposed to go with her, we were returning from a trip to Hawaii, so I wasn't able to go. The next week was the same presentation I had watched with her and Terry. Since the first part was longer, she asked if I would just like to comment on the letters. I agreed, and while she was up front, I began to read the letters the children had submitted. There were fifteen letters, each telling about a specific abuse problem the child had experienced or was dealing with now. I began to put sticky notes on each letter to remind me of the situation. I was overwhelmed, telling myself `this is the nightmare' I had feared.
I have to digress for a moment, and say that I was attending a bible study at this time where we were studying the book of Acts, with a huge emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit. How He is available for all of us at anytime. This was new concept to me, but I was ready to call upon Him to come in and take over, for there was no way I could handle these letters.
When Bev finished her part, she told me I had about 20 minutes before the class would be getting ready for lunch. I quickly made my petition known to the Holy Spirit to come in and take over, and I really meant it!
I can't tell you what I said, I know I used the words, Champion and Hero a lot. I was self-confident and suddenly I looked over at Bev and she was giving me the high sign that I had gone over by ten minutes. I walked out of that room two feet off the ground. I knew then and I know now, that I was supposed to be here and God would not let me down. Working with Alive has changed my life and has given me courage to step out of my comfort zone. What a blessing.
I was discussing the Emotional and Neglect Abuse, and brought up the wonderful healing power of hugs. I told the students that I heard one time from a very wise person that it took three hugs a day to survive and five hugs a day to thrive (to really feel good). Then I mentioned that maybe your mom or dad has had a long stressful day, or may be feeling too busy to stop to give you a hug. "Why don't you surprise them with a hug today and see how they respond." I then told the students that I lived alone, but I had many children living in my neighborhood, and when they see me they would come over and give me a hug. "It really makes me feel good", I told them. We went on with the lesson, watched the film and had more discussion before it was time for me to leave. The children were going out to recess, and seven or eight of them stopped by me to give me a hug and thanked me for coming. Wow!
A YOUNG GIRL SHALL LEAD THEM
A lovely young girl came into the school office and announced she was here to take the presenter to her room. That was me. We started off across the playground toward the classroom. The girl began to chat, telling me she was so happy we were back this year, and that she had heard the presentation last year when she was in the 4 th grade. She wanted to know if we were going to pass out cards again, she had lost hers.
She began to tell me a story that had happened to her when she was at her cousin's house when she was six years old. I'm not sure how old the cousin was, but I assume near her age. There were some older boys at the house, ages 10 to 13. They wanted the girls to come into the bedroom to play `'hide and seek'. She told them, "You can't play `hide and seek' in a bedroom." And then told them "No! I don't want to go in there." Her cousin said, "I'll go in and see how it is." She tried to dissuade the cousin, but she went in anyway. She finally came out and told her that the boys had tied her hands behind her and began to touch her in the wrong places. The girls told the mom and the boys were strongly reprimanded.
I told her what a smart girl she was at such a young age, and suggested she share the story with her class at the end of the presentation if we had time. I told her it would be good for her classmates to realize inappropriate things can happen even when you are playing with friends. She seemed quite eager to share her experience.
I finished the first week's Alive program and we had about 10 minutes before lunch. She came up and told her story. The class was glued to her every word. Then, a young boy raised his hand, and went to the front of the class and began to tell a story about an uncle who was spending the night recently at his house. In the middle of the night, the uncle went into his sister's bedroom and climbed in her bed and began to touch her. She ran out of the room crying to her brother. They both went to the parents, and the uncle was sent away. Tears began to stream down his face. The teacher, quickly came over to him and began to comfort him, telling him how brave he was. While all of this was going on, another young girl came to the back of the room with tears running down her face, to get a tissue.
The teacher announced to the class, that she was always there for them. And she would believe them and try to help them.
It was time for lunch and time for me to leave. I stopped in the office to sign out and talked to the vice-principal about what had occurred in the class. She promised me she would check into it.
The next week when I returned, the vice-principal told me they had been able to help a girl in the class. She also thanked me for sharing the information with her. It was interesting to me that there were no letters in the Alive envelope. I suppose that class didn't need to write about their problems, they were able to share them with a loving and caring teacher.