Some lessons are taught when no one is looking.....

In education there are always different learning/teaching strategies popping up.  I’m talking about things like “Whole Language Learning”, “Open Classrooms”, “Multi-age Classrooms”, or “Service Learning” just to name a few.  Honestly, there are so many concepts that cycle through education that it’s hard to keep track of what’s hot and what’s not.  They seem to cycle back around again and again, but keeping on top of what’s hot NOW is a job in itself.

While it’s important to keep an open mind and be aware of ways to give the children in your classroom the best education possible, it’s often hard to grab a hold of something that doesn’t speak to you- or incorporate something into your classroom that just doesn’t feel authentic. 

At least that’s my humble opinion.

The “Service Learning” model is a concept that to ME gives a notion that the children are being taught to be empathetic and empowered, but I feel this concept has been become a tool that in most cases doesn’t REALLY teach children about true, authentic and personal “giving” of one’s time and energy.

Let me see if I can explain what I mean.

Having children march from classroom to classroom asking other children to give money or items for a cause that they know nothing about or a cause that doesn’t PERSONALLY affect their every day life is kind of crazy.  It’s nice to gather pennies for a local group that needs money, but most of the children don’t KNOW yet what real need is (thankfully) and so how can they truly empathize with the cause?  I’ve watched over the years and have just been mystified about this whole concept.  I understand the motivation behind it, but I really feel that TRUE service learning should arise naturally in a classroom based on what is happening to the CHILDREN, or children and families they know personally.  It may happen some years…and some years it may not. 

This year it did.

I have a lovely, yet somewhat challenging group of children in kindergarten.  As always it’s a diverse group of kids with a diverse group of needs.  I have many that speak a second language first, and are new to this country.  I also have one particularly challenging challenge this year. (Say THAT three times.)

His name is Jack.

He came to us under some stressful circumstances this fall when he and his mother moved unexpectedly into our community, and he turned my world upside down from the minute he ran into the classroom.
These days we have a certain kind of “love/drive me crazy” kind of relationship.  Every morning at 8:30 I am madly in love with him.  He comes in smiling and dancing and entertains us most of the day. By 2:30 he is usually sitting as far away from me as possible “thinking about” whatever it was he did to give me a massive headache.  He leaves when the bell rings and throws me a quick hug as he speeds out the door. (Usually it hurts.)

The next day the roller coaster begins all over again.  We’ve been doing this for oh, about 140 days.  (Or a million.)

Recently, however, I discovered that his hard-working, supportive and amazing mother has the big C.  She disclosed this to me in a tearful meeting in the hallway when she was handing off a birthday treat for the class. 

It’s not good.  It’s not good at all.

I sent an email to our “classroom parent” asking what she thought about rallying to help this single, struggling mother.  It was a tricky situation, because Jack didn’t know yet exactly what was happening. (As far as I know he still doesn’t.)  The response from  all of the families was just OVERWHELMING!

The parents, in a quiet yet powerful show of support, put together a package of gift cards to help this mother in every way possible.  And while the children have no idea that their classmate is in a battle he doesn’t even know he’s fighting, their parents have wrapped this family in love like nobody’s business. (They know something is happening, but not the details.)

They did all of this without a show, without a parade, without an assembly and without a fanfare.  They did it without a column in the newspaper and without glamour, but they did it with a whole lot of love.  They’ve shown their children by their actions that the best gift, the best lesson of all is to give from the heart when a fellow human being is in need.

The class performed their OWN service learning project... and they didn’t even know it. 

I just hope someday I can tell them.


Gigi said...

Ah...this made me cry.

Those children are going to learn to be empathetic and compassionate from their parents; those that chose to talk to their children about why they do certain things.

Yes, our schools teach our children much. But parent's need to realize that they can teach their children so much more.

I'm throwing some love and prayers out there for Jack's mom and Jack.

Mocadeaux said...

What a beautiful example of extending kindness to someone because it is the right thing to do and not for the fanfare or a prize. Prayers for Jack and his family.

quiltmom anna said...

What a wonderful story of the power of caring for others. As always, your words reflect the thoughtful caring teacher you are- I especially love how you share the human ness of the classroom.
I read your book The House of Frank last night from cover to cover as it arrived on my doorstep in the post. It was terrific and brought more than a few laughs. I so can relate to your classroom stories.
Thanks for capturing life in the kindergarten-
Warmest regards from another kindergarten teacher,

Vodka Mom said...

And your comments have me in tears all over again...

pray for her....

One crazed mommy said...

Oh this post hurts my heart - my prayers are with Jack's mom. What a wonderful display of support and caring - the parents pulling together to rally support will have an affect on the children - they see much more, even if they don't understand it at the time, then we think they do (I'm sure you can attest to that). ;)

Unknown said...

Once again you made me smile and cry at the same time. You have a particular talent for that. LOVE to open my email and see that Vodkamom has a new post. This was lovely.

Unknown said...

In response to your tag : Pizza Hut is looking for a delivery person in your area.

#1Nana said...

I go back and forth on this issue. I really dislike all the many fund raisers where we are expected to buy crap we don't want or need to "support the kids." People who ride a bike across America or swim the Arctic Circle to cure cancer just seem silly to me. Why do I give you money to do something you like to do? How is that heroic? I say we work hard and send money to the causes and people that we know need help and leave all the grandstanding to the circus.

Rant aside, I believe that people are good and care about others. That your community quietly supported Jack's mother restores my faith in humanity.

Caroline said...

So damn true. We are fortunate enough to live in a well-off community, but even here we have pockets of poverty that are truly staggering. Lots of kids taking backpacks home on weekends with pasta and ramen to make it through to Monday. I want to start some kind of public service initiative next year with my students, but it needs to come FROM THEM and be driven BY THEM or it's just another adult telling them what to do. Everyone can help someone!

ChiTown Girl said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I love to be reminded that there are awesome people out there in the world.


Cora said...

That must have meant the world to Jack's mama. That's a wonderful thing you did for her. *sniffle*

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