Everything I Learned About: First Graders

Every year since my freshman year, I have traveled through the schools in Black River Falls School District to present a variety of topics: drugs, saying nice things, not bullying people online, etc. This year I helped put together the “Three Little Pigs” presentation about the dangers of smoking for first graders. Though I was supposed to teach first graders about smoking, they taught me more about something else. I learned that even first graders are not as aren’t innocent as most people are led to believe.

In our play, there were the three little pigs and a big bad wolf. While the big bad wolf was supposed to be so big and tough because of smoking, the three little pigs bashed him and told him about the dangers of smoking. Without putting up a fight, the wolf dropped his habit and even learned a “fun” song. It may sound cheesy, but it’s for first graders so they’re okay with cheesy, or so I thought.

After our little presentation, guidance counselor Mrs. Ferstenou asked the kids questions. This is where their lesson ended, and where mine began.

“What is the chemical in cigarettes that makes people get hooked,” Ferstenou asked.

I wasn’t expecting an answer; however, these “little darlings” had a lot to say. While I was expecting to hear “nicotine” or complete silence, I got sad full-length stories or drugs that I didn’t even know about until Breaking Bad became popular.

Cocaine, Crystal Meth, Marijuana, Weed, and a cross between “gasses” and “acid” (sound it out for yourself), were just a few of my favorite answers. Though funny at first, I realized that while I was eating play-doh and coloring with crayons in first grade, these children were hearing about crystal meth and other unhealthy habits.

You know those parents that baby their children and are completely oblivious to their imperfections? Well, I slowly started to realize that I would become one of those parents. I went into the classes expecting that this was their first exposure to cigarettes, but I was bluntly surprised when some children even knew how drug users do drugs like heroin.

So, I learned an important lesson: never underestimate six and seven-year-olds. They may not be purifying drugs to sell on the streets, but they are aware. Sometimes, parents and siblings forget that small children really do absorb a large percentage of the information around them.

We shouldn’t make our children oblivious to the world around them, but we shouldn’t be oblivious to the fact that our actions reflect on the youth of the world. People need to be careful about what they spread to children. I’m not just talking about their little siblings or their own children, but children that you pass in your everyday lives. I don’t want to go to another classroom and hear a story about how a child is living with a drug user because I used to find worms in the ground when I was their age. I don’t want to hear another kid say weed when referring to marijuana because a weed to me was something I helped my grandmother pull out of her garden when I was their age.