I’m back volunteering in the Grade 6 class. Although I talked to some of these kids last year, they’re essentially new to me, except for a few of them who were in the split Grade 5/6 class last year.
Today was my second visit this fall and I’m enthralled to be with these children. Since the Grade 6’s will graduate in June and head to a school in another community next year, there’s a real sense of loving them for ten months and then letting them go. Perhaps my life is largely an accumulation of moments in which I often make a difference in the present environment … with new folks showing up after that. Maybe a few kids will look back when they’re 40 and remember me fondly, or maybe not. What I do hope is that I plant a few seeds that will blossom when they’re adults.
The Grade 6 teacher is new to the school. I’ll call him Ben. He’s already showing a great willingness to have me contribute to the life of the classroom. The discussion early this morning was about 911. When I arrived in the afternoon, Ben invited me to share my memories of the day. Thank you, Ben. I love sharing my history, in hopes that my stories will touch a heart or two.
I told the kids that I was in an elementary school that morning in 2001. All the TVs were on. Students and staff members were crying. All I could think of doing was going around to kid after kid and saying “You’re safe.” Of course I didn’t know that. I didn’t know if Toronto would be attacked next. I was terrified.
Most of the kids were with me as I spoke. In general, I think they watch us adults like hawks, trying to figure out how to be one themselves. So we need to speak the truth, and kindly so.
At one point, Ben had the class read a short story in which a boy ends up applauding a girl who bested him in a hula hoop contest – another great lesson for these young ones. The victorious girl was Rachelle, and I noticed that as each student read a sentence or two they all pronounced her name “Rachel”. Afterwards I asked them the question “If, while people were reading, you thought the girl’s name should be pronounced ‘Rachelle’, would you have made the change when it was your turn to talk?” And then I told them there was no right answer – it’s just something to think about. The opportunity to say things like this to 11-year-olds is absolutely precious to me. Thanks again, Ben.
When I’m volunteering, I’m always on the lookout for kids being kind to each other. It’s what the world needs. Today I didn’t notice anything but I’m sure it will come. And when it does, I’ll take the giver aside and privately thank him or her for doing something that helps. For school is most deeply about growing human beings.