Sunday, October 6, 2013

Andres, Do You Want to Build with Me?


Today's story could be a graphic story, but here it is only in words. 

It happened in my preschool class. A student came to me with a problem about another student rejecting to play him and calling him black.

My assistant and I had the following conversation, after I told the children to be quiet so the teachers could have a special talk with each other. Of course, we had a pin drop silence in the class---the little ears wanted to listen to our conversation.

After that we never had a problem of discrimination in the class. I guess an Indian teacher with her African American assistant do not offer much to discriminate. 

My story, with a few changes appeared in the Stories for Children in one of their 2007 issue.


                                              Andrés, do you want to build with me?

Miss Joyce was working with her preschool class.

Andrés came to her with an unhappy face.

Ms. Joyce asked, “What’s going on Andrés?”

Andrés sounded very upset as he said, “Johnny says, ‘I am black’”

Ms. Joyce said,  “Hmm.  What did you tell him?”

Andrés extended his arm in front of me, “Nothing…...I am brown.”

Ms Joyce put her arm next to Andres’ arm and said, “Guess what? I am also brown.  Sometimes people

call me black.”

Andrés looked up at Ms. Joyce and smiled.

Ms. Joyce said,  “Let’s talk to Johnny.”

Ms. Joyce took Andrés by hand and they both walked to Johnny.

She said, “Hello, Johnny, Do you know this boy?”  She pointed to Andrés.

Johnny looked up and said, “Yes, that’s Andrés.

Johnny went on building again.

Ms. Joyce said, “Johnny, Andrés has something to tell you.”

Johnny held on to one of the blocks and said, “What?”

Andrés said, “I am not black, I am brown.”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders and went back to his blocks.

Ms. Joyce asked, “How about calling him by his name?”

Johnny said, “Okay.  I’ll call him Andrés.”

Ms. Joyce said, “Thank you.  I think people like being called by their own name.”

Johnny concentrated on his blocks.

Unhappy Andrés stood there, with a crestfallen face.

Ms Joyce put one hand on Andrés shoulder and she put the other hand on Johnny’s shoulder as she asked, “Johnny, what do you do when you are hungry?”

Johnny replied, “I eat when I’m hungry.”

Ms. Joyce asked Andrés, “And you Andrés?  What do you do when you are hungry?”

Andrés said, “I eat.”

Andrés sat down on the floor, next to Johnny. 

Ms. Joyce said, “And what do you gentlemen do when you are thirsty?”

Johnny said, “I drink milk in the morning.  I also like drinking juice and water too.”

Andrés said, “I also drink milk in the morning.  I drink water in school.”

Ms. Joyce asked, “Johnny, what happens when you are unhappy?”

Johnny said, “Everyone cries when they are unhappy.”

Ms. Joyce said, “I think you are right, people cry when they are unhappy.  Now

Johnny, have you ever tasted your tears?”

Johnny, “Yeah, they taste like salt.”

Ms. Joyce asked Andrés, “Are your tears salty, Andrés?”

Andrés moved closer to Ms. Joyce, he whispered, “Yes.”

Ms. Joyce asked him again, “Okay, do you smile when you are happy, Andrés?”

Andrés smiled, “Yes.”

Ms. Joyce asked, Johnny, “And you, Johnny, do you smile when you’re happy?”

Johnny answered, “Yep.”

Ms. Joyce asked again, “When you scrape your knee, what happens?”

Johnny touched his knee and replied, “Sometimes it bleeds.”

Ms. Joyce asked the same question to Andrés.  He said that sometimes he also bleeds.

She further asked, “What is the color of your blood?”

Andrés answered, “Red.”

Johnny smiled and said, “Mine is red too.”

Ms. Joyce said, “Do you think everyone has red blood in their body?”

Johnny said, “Ms. Joyce, everybody has red blood.  Even dogs and cats.”

Ms. Joyce said, “Oh, that’s good.  Everyone has red blood.  One more question.”

Johnny asked, “What?”

Ms. Joyce said, “Boys, when you get a cold, what is the color of the stuff that comes out of your nose?”

Andrés replied, “It is called film, Ms. Joyce.”

Ms. Joyce said, “That’s right, what is the color of your phlegm?”

Johnny said, “Yuck, it is white and yellow. Gross.”

Andrés said, “Yeah. Gross.”

Ms. Joyce continued, “Yes, it is gross. All right then gentlemen, one last question, what color is your pee?”

Johnny said, "You said a potty word."

The boys answered together, “Ms. Joyce, it’s yellow.”

Ms. Joyce said, “That’s right.  Tell me now, are you more the same or different?”

Johnny and Andrés said together, “We are both the same.”

Johnny smiled as he said, “We are different outside, but the same inside.” 

Ms. Joyce said, “Ah, you boys are so smart.  You are right, we look different outside but

we are the same inside.”

The boys started grinned at each other as Ms. Joyce said, “What would I do if Andrés, Johnny, Rachel, Rina, Cathy, Tommy, Martha, Ashok, Keisha—looked exactly the same?”

Andrés said, “You are so silly, Ms. Joyce.”

Johnny said, “Yep, you are so silly.  We can’t all be the same.”

Andrés said, “We can be the same inside, but not on the outside.”

Ms. Joyce smiled as she said, “And I thank you for being different.”

Johnny said, “Andrés, do you want to build with me?”

Andrés said, “Okay.”

Andrés and Johnny palyed together.

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah


  1. Cood story, Meera. I like how you used the philosophy to get them to agreed and forget the earlier problem, or look past it, as the case may be. I enjoyed this very much.

  2. Cute story. Nisha was asking why we are Indian? My explanation started with Mommy and Daddy are Indian and your Grandparents are Indian. The response was "But Why?" I wasn't quite sure where to start next and didn't inquire as to why she was asking. I might try to use your story next time.