I mentioned awhile back that I was helping out at a Creative Writing camp for kids for a week earlier this summer. I’m not sure if I mentioned also though that I’ve been doing a workshop twice a week this summer for inner-city kids at the Boys and Girls Club with a few other students from RPI. I’ve worked with kids before, but just barely. It’s always been a pretty low-key interaction, or just long enough ago where I don’t remember much. In Spain I taught English to 3 girls for a few months with a friend, a gig brought to us by our Business professor. It was pretty easy and I mostly supervised homework, so I don’t really count that. Not to mention I was horribly awkward what with my lack of experience and expertise in the Spanish language!
This week is my last week with the workshop at the Boys and Girls Club. To be honest it’s been a huge struggle to find the energy for the four of us to keep going each week. The students are hostile (I mean, we’re teaching them math on computers. In the summer. Right after lunch. Right before pool/outdoors time. I really don’t blame them!). The computers rarely if ever work consistently. The building is not air conditioned and 10 computers generates a LOT of heat throughout the day. None of us have great experience working with kids – collectively, we probably have an almost complete knowledge but it’s a stretch.
So it surprises me that I’ll really miss it after this week. I’ve taken on the same job for the fall and although I’m looking forward to it, one of our group of student teachers is returning to Singapore from her study abroad at RPI and I’m really going to miss her. The other two…I’m not sure if they’ll be back. The particular facility we were at was hard to handle in the summer – I can only imagine what it’ll be like in the fall with the added load of courses and social commitments.
Over these past few weeks I’ve learned that inspiration can come from the most random sources. I learned so much from these programs I’ve been involved in and the people I’ve met as a result. During Creative Writing, the kids constantly surprised and delighted me with everything from their passion for reading and blunt observations about each other.
When you think about, it’s a rare thing for college students to interact with children, especially children who are just starting to really develop their personalities before becoming teenagers. There’s such a huge generational gap that I never considered – unless you are specifically teaching children in large groups while in college, or happen to have a much younger sibling and are extremely connected to your family still…there is a whole generation of beings that we don’t know. We don’t get their pop culture references. We don’t know what gadgets and toys they like. We don’t understand their senses of humor sometimes, or what they think is “cool” or not.
I hope that I can always keep this in mind and work on lessening that gap for myself. The kids I’ve been teaching for the past several weeks are all unique individuals. As much as it’s been a challenge, it’s been the kind of challenge that’s really stretched me to the limits and discover things about myself and these kids that I never knew. I used to think working with kids was one of the scariest things I’d ever do – what the heck do I know about it! I’m awkward in real life with adults - how would it be better with kids?? But really? It’s been fantastic! It’s not a mystery anymore. I’ve done it and enjoyed it and will keep teaching in the fall. As cheesy as it is….I can’t wait!
The cold weather can wait though ;).