Saturday, January 22, 2011

Three work stories

I was grateful for two things on Thursday: warm, gingery, spicy sweet potato soup (my bowl seemed to refill every time I looked down) & outside recess.
The words "indoor recess" strike fear in any elementary school teacher's heart. Kids are meant to run and play outside. This is basically the only way they can get their brains ready to work in the classroom. When they have to stay inside because it is too cold or snowy, they are miserable. They start to act in crazy, random ways. They spin in circles, stick gum on computer keyboards, and hide in corners. They cannot focus in the classroom. Teachers are miserable, too. Indoor recess means they not only have to supervise these now-crazed individuals while they attempt to play board games, read a book, or play a math game on the computer, but also have to deal with the crazy for the rest of the afternoon.

So today I am grateful that while there is snow on the ground, it is above freezing and the sun is shining. Thank you, Jesus.

Yesterday was our second RIF distribution day at our school. RIF stands for Reading is Fundamental. It's a federally funded program that puts up 70% of the cost for every kid in a school to take home 3 free books a year. For many of our students, these are the only books they have at home. I'm working with two parent volunteers to coordinate it this year, and it's been such fun. I spend the whole distribution day in the auditorium, setting up books, helping students get settled when they arrive, helping kids look for books, stamping and writing names, and generally controlling chaos. Yesterday I was in my element. It's so great to watch the kids get new books and just enjoy themselves making crafts and eating snacks. It was also great for me to see that just 6 months into this job, I DO know most of the names of the students at our school. I CAN handle the chaos when 7 kids want me to listen to them/help them at the same time. I know what kinds of books our students love to read, and I love working with these kids. There were many highlights yesterday, but this is my favorite:

Me: "What's your name? I can't remember."

Kindergartner: [big grin] "Buzz Lightyear."

Me: "What? I know that's not your name! What's your name, for real this time?"

Kindergartner: "Jacob."

[Yes, I'm aware that I just said that I know most students' names. But there are literally 150 3, 4, and 5 year old students at our school. Needless to say, I'm still working on names.]

I know that this new job is a much better fit for me, based on the fact that I am able to confidently put myself out there and try things I would have been loathe to do at the BP. Yesterday was a great example. We had quite a few parent volunteers yesterday, two of them being parents of 3 students. Spanish is their first language, and is the second language, if at all, for most of our volunteers. So I decided to greet them and introduce myself in Spanish. And I did it! (with just a few verb tense/article issues) While this seems so little, it's hard for me. I'm grateful for these chances to practice Spanish everyday, and for kind, patient parents who wait for me to finish my slow, poorly-constructed sentences. We also have some DPS high school students who do mentoring in our preschool/kindergarten. Today they came to help with RIF for a little. They read with our kids, and afterward, I struck up a conversation with them about future plans, since they were seniors. These young women were so full of life and confidence, with such great dreams! One wanted to work with kids in a school and eventually get a counseling degree. The other girl wanted to be a plumber. I replied with great enthusiasm that this was an awesome goal. She told me that most people are skeptical and doubtful when she states her plan.

Again, this job has given me confidence and hope in ways that I couldn't have imagined 6 months ago. It isn't my dream job, but what I'm realizing more and more is that LOTS of kinds of jobs make me happy. If I'm educating, working with people (preferably kids), and not sitting at a desk all day, I can be happy.