I trudge my tired feet towards my car. The built up ice and snow on the sidewalks makes me want to turn around and snuggle in my blankets watching Netflix with a big ole cup of hot chocolate. When I reach my car I sit in the seat and let out a deep sigh. Do I really want to go to work today? Do I want to deal with so-and-so’s attitude? Do I really want to get called fat…again? Not really, but I crank the start key of my Oldsmobile, put it in drive, and go off to Crazy-Kid Land.
On my way to work I crank up my music. It’s only a twenty minute drive, but I gotta get in an upbeat mood before I set foot on school grounds. If I’m not in a good mood or energetic, then I can’t expect to have a positive interaction among any of the kids. And if some of the kids don’t have a positive home life (many don’t), then I need to be the one happy thing in their life.
When I get to the Elementary school, the one that I’ve worked at since I first came up to college, I walk towards the front to get buzzed in. I smile at the secretary as we make eye contact. Greet her. Sign in. And walk off to go to the class room I work in. There I feel like I’m completely unnecessary, as the teacher has a very good handle on her kids. Countless times I’ve sat through episodes of Magic School Bus and learning how to do simple math. But every once in awhile, the teacher shows her appreciation by thanking me at the end of the day.
To some it’s just a job that puts money in the pocket. To other’s, like myself, it’s a job to potentially make a difference. This job has taught me many things. For one, children are unpredictable. One day Caleb* is wanting to hug me and sit on my lap, and another day he is unhappy and constantly pouting. Then there is Luke* who always seemed to resent me, but surprised me after our Christmas break, and gave me a hug and saying he missed me.
A second thing I’ve learned is that raising my voice back at a child who is getting frustrated is not an effective method of teaching. Granted this has only happened once, and it was my during my second year as a tutor. He was getting very upset because he couldn’t read a book as well as he wanted to, and he was getting up constantly, and I told him that if he didn’t want to learn that he was done for the day. Shortly after I walked him back to his group.
Another thing I’ve learned is that listening is more effective than talking. If I sit and listen to Lilly* tell me about how her uncle will get out of jail soon, verse me saying that her uncle will get out of jail makes it more of a positive outlook for her. I listen to what the kids have to say because if they’re comfortable telling me, it must mean a lot to them. To them I’m a trusting adult, and someone they can call a friend.
This job has also allowed me to stretch my patience. I used to be “C’mon, rapido, rapido!” but now I’m more along the lines of “Let’s go at a pace that you’re comfortable with. You wanna take 10 minutes to read a five-page book, sure let’s do it!” Because kids need to be comfortable doing what they’re doing. Although at the right times I will push them to move it in gear (like going to the bathroom).
See the thing is, I love my job, well most days. Everyday is a new adventure. Everyday I witness a child throw some sort of tantrum. Yes, things do get thrown, and words are shouted. But then there is that one kid who gets a big grin on his face when he sees me and runs up to me to give me a hug and says, “Miss Angel I missed you.” That’s when I remember that despite all the tantrums, and all the times I’ve gotten called fat or told told my arms have “big hair,” that every day that I can potentially make a difference in one’s life makes it all worth it.
*kids names have been changed for identity reasons.