I have three consecutive days in Allentown this week with two Allentown schools on Monday: center city Sheridan and East side Ritter, both somewhat different.

The Sheridan gig was in the gym with a fairly large audience. I got there nick ‘o time with the Tilghman Street bridge out of commission. They were waiting for me so I settled in quickly and launched into Peanut Butter, a good ice-breaker. I can usually tell right away who the tough-sell kids are, usually the older kids. It’s my job to reel them in and usually do. One teacher was a big fan (as is often the case) and she made me feel welcome.

The Ritter gig was on the East side of town, more residencial (but ’50s and 60’s houses) but still a mix of Latino, Black and some whites. Again, this was a larger crowd, so I set up in a corner of the warm lunch room and away we go…..

I’m trying to add the kids’ Bear Hunt verses and Ritter came up with a good one, the local high school Dieruff, which probably is quite a daunting structure for elementary schools kids. I had to struggle to make it approachable for these kids so we did an echoing “hello” as we entered and then headed upstairs for pizza in the high school cafeteria. You just go with the flow sometimes. All Around the Kitchen worked well as a closer and some of the more recalcitrant kids got involved.

One young girl sat off to the side, her face in her hands, occasionally looking up but never smiling or reacting. I have to learn to observe and not comment. I have no idea what is going on in her life and I have to respect that.