16 November, 2009
Reflection of a Fortunate Man
It was early September 2009 and I
had ahead of me a challenging task. I
had been prompted to select a Service Learning Partner, with whom, I would
complete my hours of mentoring. I had
many options ranging from Union Station to homeless shelters in front of me and
all looked appealing. There was one
opportunity, however, that I just could not pass up. I had the chance to serve children in my
community through Ridgeview: one of
Upon deciding to assist the teachers at this school, I was set thinking I would only have to mentor able and willing children. I did not anticipate some of the trials which are natural in a school setting including, but not limited to; children throwing sharp objects, dumping breakfast trays, children attempting to cause violent disruption, and groups of fifth-graders refusing to do math your way because, “that’s not the way she told us to do it.” It was not long until I got used to how the elementary school operated, and before long, I fit right in.
On Thursdays, I would sign in and
walk down to Ridgeview’s
After engaging in opening dialogue, I began pacing around the classroom observing various students’ math worksheets answering any possible question they could come up with. The interesting part was, the students did not ask that many questions-that were relevant, anyway. The students were more interested to know why I was here, who I was, and how old I was. After answering all of these questions from nearly every student, it was finally time for recess.
Recess was always very interesting for me in elementary school, but with these students, I never knew what was going to happen. I enjoyed recess in particular because it was a chance for me to interact with the students on a more friendly level. There was one time I found myself not able to interact with a student in the classroom. That student I could not interact with in the classroom previous to that recess was starting to compete with me on the swings and talk to me. This not only made me smile but it gave me a sense of satisfaction. Breaking this barrier made me realize I could do anything I wanted to do if I set my mind to it. Being careful to avoid incoming basketballs from nearby games, I headed inside with the class.
After reading and writing for an hour, it was
time for lunch. Students with gold and
silver stars got to eat in the cafeteria.
Bronze stars had to eat in the classroom under the supervision of Mrs.
Grant, the head teacher of the
My previous preconceptions of this
duty were pretty much all proven false.
The first of which being that I could go in there and tell these
children how to do certain tasks and they will all listen to me. This was proven wrong on two occasions. The first occasion had me dealing with a kid
The second time my first preconception turned out to be false was when I tutored a fifth grade class in mathematics. I was under the impression I could just waltz into her classroom and teach the kids what the teacher wanted them to know. Little did I know, there would be many obstacles to teaching the children their mathematics. The first day the kids conveyed to me that, “this isn’t the way she told us to do it” and “I don’t feel like working.” To which complaints I replied, “well, this is what got me through elementary school” and “who ever feels like working?” The children eventually trusted my word and some even gave me hugs at the end of the day. I cannot express in words how gratifying that was to me.
Another preconception that was
proven wrong was the little voice in my head that told me the job would be
easy. I had a feeling from the get-go
that this was going to be proven false.
Sure enough, the first day I walked into the
My time at
I took away one very important realization from my time at the school. The children, teachers, and parents all must cooperate with each other in order for there to be a successful educational environment. The children must do their part by arriving to class every day ready to learn. The teachers need to have their lesson plans in-hand and ready for class that day. The parent must also do their part by getting their children ready to go to school in the morning. This can involve preparing breakfast, getting them dressed, and waiting for the bus at the bus stop every morning. In this ecosystem of education I realized that I could help play a vital role in the shaping of a child’s future. That, to me, would be one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. There is no sense of gratification like knowing you made a child’s dream possible. To that end, all three parts of the educational ecosystem are necessary to function correctly and effectively. I sincerely hope I can return to this place which taught me so much in so little of a time period. I am thankful I had the opportunity to serve the children of Liberty.