Principal encourages kids to shine

Once a week the children at The Colonial School are encouraged to do a bit of showing off. It might be a moment to demonstrate a few steps learned in ballet class or to pound out notes on the piano. Or it could be "as simple as relating a story they want us to know about," says principal Gerard Finelli. The point is, "it gives them a chance to shine a bit."

That's why he created the "Morning Program" at this K-5 elementary school in Pelham, N.Y. It gives the kids a chance to meet - two grades at a time -with their principal in a weekly forum at which they may share whatever they choose.

In part the program was created to help set a warm and nurturing tone in the school. But it also serves a more practical purpose. "It gives the kids a chance to speak in front of an audience, to learn communication skills," he says.

At one recent morning program, second- and third-graders offered a wide variety of shared performances. Brian Cross demonstrated some toys he made from household items. Tommy Mulkeen reported enthusiastically about a trip to a New York Knicks game. Eleanor Lewis described some favorite books. But when third-graders Anna Green and Elizabeth Geiger got up, they lost their train of thought, and not much came out. It doesn't matter, says Finelli. They made the effort to get up and that's what counts.

Some kids are more in need of recognition than others. Mara Kravitz, an experienced sharer, is blas about any kudos. "It gets annoying after a while," she sighs. "Everyone keeps telling you, 'That was great.' "

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