I have the privilege of volunteering at a local elementary
school one morning a week. I always look forward to this day. Spending time
with 5- and 7-year old’s in a learning environment is an opportunity to be
reminded of how interesting children are. It is also a reminder of how suggestible
and vulnerable they are.
Over the course of three hours I spend time with individual children
and small groups, supporting them with reading, writing and math activities. Of
course, in the process, there is often a range of little squabbles and displays
of frustration with the learning process.
Some are naturally social and confident with their peers,
their teacher and me, the helper. Some are shy, withdrawn and have difficulty expressing
themselves. Some learn easily while others struggle to keep up with their
peers. So much personality is displayed. I often find myself wondering what the
future holds for these little spirits.
I wonder what their homelife is like, what values they are
being taught, and whether the environment supports their natural tendencies and
potential? What a monumental responsibility it is to be a parent. I can only
hope that good seeds are being planted, but of course, I know that is not
always the case. Every adult I see began life as a delicate little sponge.
The other day I roamed around the school, on an alphabet
scavenger hunt with two little five-year-old boys. Each had a sheet of paper
with the alphabet and the goal was to find the letters on the posters and art
work along the walls of the hallways.
These little guys
were excited to have the freedom to wander around. They were pumped up and
eager to complete the assignment. Each time I pointed out a new letter they
hunkered down onto the floor and earnestly scanned their sheets, looking for
the proper letter. Once they found it, they carefully wrote it.
They helped each other, called each other “man” “dude” and “buddy.”
It was clear that one was more of a leader and one was the follower, at least
during this particular activity. This dynamic seemed to be perfectly
comfortable for them. They had fun and were determined to complete the whole
sheet, even if “it meant missing lunch.”
A little fellow on his way to the bathroom asked about the
alphabet scavenger hunt and wanted to join in. He was crestfallen to realize that he wouldn’t
be able to join in because his teacher would be expecting him back in class. Other
older children moving between classes, stopped to say hello to the boys and give
Such a simple fun one-hour adventure roaming the halls,
while learning. There were no reprimands, no belittling, no shaming, no being
put on the spot. Just a fun excursion with many smiles, laughs and connection
After the alphabet scavenger hunt these two little guys sat
together and shared lunch. The adventure was a small one, really just one
little experience in their busy school day. Yet, I know that it is these little
moments of shared connection with others that helps to build our resilience. It
truly was a privilege to be a part of that.