16 pairs of weepy eyes stare at me as I stand before my pre-K class for the first day of school. Lingering sobs and controlled sniffles, feet tapping their own discordant rhythms along with fingers drumming desks like Buddy Rich proteges – this is my view as I hold my trusty frog puppet to introduce myself.
“Hi everybody! I’m Miss Lisa and this is my very special friend Keeper! He’s so happy you’re here today.”
Keeper leans on my shoulder to try and hide his face.
“I forgot to tell you that Keeper is a little shy and he gets nervous when he’s meeting new friends for the first time. But I bet you can all help him feel so much better. Will you try with me?”
“I think if you start clapping your hands he might look up.”
The clapping begins tentatively at first and then gathers steam. It encourages Keeper to look up and take a quick peek before retreating to my shoulder. The clapping continues along with some “Come on Keeper” coaxing.
Keeper does his best imitation of “my shyness is slowly vanishing” act. He plays to the crowd. The classmates grow wild with excitement. Before long puppet and teacher have an engaged audience.
“You guys did such an awesome job! Can we tell Keeper he did a great job too?”
A cacophony of praise comes flooding out. Keeper whispers something in my ear. I smile.
“Keeper says you are all his new special friends and he wants to give each of you a big high-five! Can…