A few weeks ago I signed up to become a volunteer through the San Francisco School Volunteers. My employer encourages this as part of their philanthropy efforts, and allows the employees to take time each week during the work day to volunteer. I jumped at the chance because I have always wanted to work with children but now that I have a toddler I just can’t justify being away from him for more hours than I already am.
Yesterday was the first day volunteering in the mentoring program I chose. Some of my coworkers and I carpooled to the Bayview district of San Francisco to meet our eight year old students. Since this is my first week I did not yet have a student assigned to me. Since one of the other mentors was out sick, I stood in for her. My coworkers, our students, and I passed an hour playing with hula hoops, building forts and telling ghost stories (I was surprised at my skills!), and playing kick ball. The time flew by!
I was amazed at how much energy the kids have! Running, jumping, laughing, screaming, being crazy…by the end of the hour they were not even tired. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around kids this age for any length of time, so it was interesting to observe their behavior. They clearly have their own social rules when dealing with one another but every once in a while they will let you see something special that they don’t share with everyone. One of the little boys played piano beautifully and the teachers who walked by kept commenting that they never knew he could play! Once minute I was watching his tiny fingers float over the keys, and the next minute I was asking him to be respectful and not to use those fingers to pinch one of the girls. The kids are caught between following the rules and giving in to their impulses. Hopefully by mentoring both the kids and the adults will all some additional time to reflect on what that means.
I enjoyed my time at the school and will definitely look foward to going back next week, especially since I will meet the student assigned to me. Additionally, next Thursday is Dictionary Day and I will be joining several co-workers in handing out free dictionaries and getting the kids excited about using them. I think I’ll have to have a bigger cup of coffee before I go next week, though!
Last night and again this morning, while getting Jack dressed and ready I thought about his future. I saw the beginnings of what will one day be an eight year old boy. He is incredibly impulsive, but every now and then I can talk to him about the rules and he will follow them. I feel lucky that I can guide him from this young age, that he will not experience the disadvantages that the kids in Bayview will.
Most of all, I feel lucky to have these experiences with my son, as well as with other kids, because even when you reach adulthood, you don’t grow out of the desire to know someone who cares about who you are.