Thursday, May 26, 2011

Junior Achievement

My last day teaching the 2nd grade class is today. Many years ago, I was the lead for Deloite & Touche's "Impact Day" where we took over an impoverished, inner city elementary school. Those kids spoke no less than 15 different languages and were born in 20 different countries. One of my most vivid memories is reading what those youngsters wanted in a leader: compassion, empathy, kindness. The countries were Laos, Cambodia, among others.

On that day, my son helped volunteer as he was out of school. He helped with the track and field station down across the street. Later he would tell me about the drug deal and the prostitutes he saw there that day. We would later talk about how lucky we were to have a warm house, without gun fire, with warm food, and warm blankets. The kids we were with that particular day often went without food, and often without parents.

I left D&T... thankfully. I don't fit the throw-people-under-the-bus mentality... and searched for other ways to give back to kids.

Junior Achievement.

Not much is different between the children at that inner city school and the one where I've been teaching. Sure, the drug deals do not happen on the field, and there are no prostitues wandering the streets in this cozy suburb but the kids are from all different walks of life; Asian, Middle Eastern, bi-racial, multi-racial, names as along as my fingers, Caucasian, African-American, and everything in between.

My take away from this experience has been this:

kids are simply kids... there was no major difference between the kids and I'm positive that had they all been one race, the different personalities would have been just as wide spread.

Noah* will always be polite, raise his hand and speak with authority. Shiloh* will always be the teacher's helper as her eyes speak of cheer. Debbie* will always be mischievious and looking for ways to do more than asked, faster than expected. Jesus* will always lose his crayons and ask me to help him (he knows where they are, I think he just wants attention). Nahla* will always sit back, take everything in, evaluate a response, raise her hand and ask her question. Julie* will always be the one getting into trouble her desk aside from the others, not allowed to have help from the other students.

And so it goes. The names don't matter, the personalities are the same. The teaching methods the same as when I was in 2nd grade... even the disciplinary actions of the teacher and the desk.

As I watched this classroom of cross racial kids interact with one another, I only wish that we as adults could be that indifferent to other races and focus on how we treat each other instead. These kids do not care that their table mates wear a head dress, or cannot have a certain type of food. They like each other for how the others act in the classroom.

It has been a journey for me to teach. I've also learned there is NO way I could ever teach youngsters.

Teachers are underpaid and are the parents who help raise good, solid kids (those kids were easy to identify).

It's been a pleasure!

*obviously, NOT the real kids' names or gender

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