A story of 973 words written for the Writer's Cramp prompt, 9/23/19.
| Buck Ette
'Catch it early!' That was the new idea for tackling bullying in school. Mary Ellis had to agree but, as a kindergarten teacher, she was not sure of the best way to approach this.
There was no denying that kids as young as four or five seemed to be able to not only recognize someone that didn't quite belong, but they would exclude them as well. At the same time, they were still receptive to change, to different ideas. Parents were under so much pressure just to pay the bills. Mary could understand the pressures but it didn't help the kids; they all needed a bit of encouragement, a bit of 'positivity', even the boldest and most confident of them.
The solution that she came up with was based around the 'bucket full/bucket empty' idea originally introduced to schools by a man called Merrill Lundgren. It was a simple enough concept, she thought. All she needed was a bucket, some stickers, and something to fill it with.
The children seemed quite boisterous. All apart from Shane. He was sitting alone again, looking at the ground. He was very withdrawn for a five-year-old, and Mary had to admit he had got her concerned.
"Hi, Miss Ellis!" Debbie started the chorus that made its way around the classroom.
"What have you got, Miss? Is it sweets?" Craig was never backward in coming forward. While others might not think to ask, he'd go straight ahead.
Mary laughed. "No, not sweets, Craig. Come on everyone, gather round and I'll introduce you." She looked over towards Shane who still had not moved. She hated to draw attention to him but he needed to take part. "Come along, Shane, you too. There's a seat for you right next to me."
Shane shuffled over and sat down. Mary was sure she heard some mutters about 'teacher's pet' but she chose to ignore them for now. Hopefully, the exercise she had planned would help eradicate that sort of behaviour.
"Okay," she said, once all the children had sat down. "Let me introduce you to Buck Ette." She chose the name for what it was, but also to make it relatable to both boys and girls.
"Haha!" Craig laughed. "A bucket called Buck Ette."
"That's right. Now right this moment Buck Ette is full and is feeling happy." She stuck on a happy face sticker. "What I want you to do is to think of something not nice to say to Buck Ette. Then when you say it, take out one of the pieces of sponge." Mary had chosen sponge because not only was it light, but it did not make any noise. She knew some of the children were reluctant to talk much louder than a whisper.
"What sort of thing, Miss?" Debbie asked.
"Well, think of something you wouldn't like someone to say to you. Try to come up with something no one else has said."
"You smell," said Debbie.
"Very good, come and take out a piece of sponge."
"You stink!" Craig put in.
Following their lead the other children began to take part.
"You are so silly!"
"You are such a moron!"
Fourteen of the fifteen children had now taken a piece of sponge and there was only one piece left. Mary turned towards Shane. "Come on, Shane, there's only your piece of sponge left. What don't you like to hear?" she encouraged.
"Go away!" There was a lot of hostility in his voice. At first, Mary thought he was talking to her, but he reached in to the bucket and took out the final sponge shape.
"Very good. Now let's see what Buck Ette looks like now, shall we?" She turned the bucket around so that a sad and tearful face looked towards the children. "So what do you think? How have you all made Buck Ette feel?"
"Sad," said Craig.
"We didn't mean to make you cry," said Debbie.
"So," said Mary, "how do you think we can make Buck Ette happy again?"
"Say something nice...?" Carol suggested. She was Debbie's best friend, and was one of the more confident of the class.
"Exactly, Carol! This time we are going to make Buck Ette full and happy again, instead of sad and empty. Each of you, think of something that you'd like someone to say to you, and as you say it, drop in your sponge."
"You look pretty," said Debbie.
"That joke was so funny!" Craig patted the bucket as he dropped in his piece.
"You're so smart!"
"That's so neat!"
Again, all the children had said something nice, had dropped in their pieces of sponge, apart from Shane. Mary knelt down at his level and said, "Come on, Shane. What would you most like someone to say to you?"
In not much more than a whisper, he said, "I love you," and dropped in his sponge. There were a few giggles which she hastily stopped with a stern look.
"Now, look at Buck Ette!" She turned the bucket around to show a big happy smile. "Which one is nicer to see. This one, or," she turned the bucket, "this one?"
"Smiley face," they all chorused.
"And how do we get smiley faces?" she asked.
"By being nice!"
"Exactly! Now, off you go and play for a while, and then we'll have a story." Mary watched the children as they got back in to their normal groups or pairs, leaving Shane alone. Had it failed. Maybe not... for Daniel, one of the quieter boys, went over to him and asked him to play.
Shane went with him, but he was so withdrawn that Mary made a note to talk to him later. He would, she decided, pick out the storybook of the day.