labors of love

Not everyone has pieced together that I actually do work outside the home. Every Monday I volunteer in my daughter’s classroom assisting, usually, with an art project and letter and number exercises. Thursdays I return and bring a snack and (sometimes) a little extra lesson to go along with the snack. Sophie’s teacher Mrs. P. is awesome at directing me in a way that corresponds to what they’re working on during the week (this week is the well-loved tale The Mitten as illustrated by Jan Brett). About every other Friday I have a shift at Nels’ preschool. I’m the secretary on the Board of that preschool which involves a sometimes crippling amount of small but very detail-intensive – well, not exactly busywork, but administrative work. You know, the kind of thing a lot of people don’t do until they’re older and realize a lot of quality institutions need volunteer work exactly of this caliber. The kind of work you get little thanks for – except from the others working alongside you. And lastly, the whole family is involved in various aspects of running the program at the 7th Street Theatre which isn’t as scheduled but is definitely detail-oriented.

My favorite job has to be Sophie’s school, so far. I feel it is such a privilege to be able to participate as much as I do in her education and that of her peers. And I have put enough time in to her classroom that I not only feel I know a lot (but certainly not all!) of what goes on during her day, I also know her teachers, her friends, and her world. I never thought of myself as good with kids but my time in her school has made me a kid person, because I see the value in hanging out with children more and more. Each child, to a soul, is treasured by me. Each child is different. Every experience with each child fits them in their own unique way that leaves me storytelling to most anyone who will listen – my parents and husband, usually. The kids make me laugh and surprise me, every day I work with them. I would take any of them home in a minute. I mean, don’t worry mom and dad, I don’t mean it literally. I mean, “your children have touched me in a very special place and I’m pretty sure I’ve touched them”… OK, I’ll stop there.

Today involved a sewing exercise – students cut out two mitten-shaped construction paper patterns, then we adults helped them punch holes in the perimeter of the mitten and directed them to a running stitch to bind the two pieces. Let me tell you, it restored my faith in my favorite craft of sewing. Every child to an instance enjoyed the process. The boys and girls were of equal ability and interest. Each child was proud of his or her finished work in a way that many previous paper-and-glue projects have not quite spawned.

Even more fun for me was the fact that two of the children who typically struggle with the academic and social learning aspects of kindergarten really excelled at the sewing. One has a speech impediment of sorts that over time I’ve improved in understanding. The other spends a lot of time in the “watching chair” (time out). Both of these children completed their mittens quickly. One of them was the only child able to course-correct after doing a whip-stitch error. I just loved in my heart to see them do well at something they enjoyed. Because not only do these students get the consideration / stigma of “special ed” kind of help, I get the feeling they are often treated with that “don’t expect much” attitude by some of the adults in their lives. It would be tactless of me to say a lot more about the situation, so I won’t. Today I was happy to report to Mrs. P. how well each did and how interested they were in the process. I felt proud of them, although they aren’t mine and I only get to borrow time with them every now and then.

On my way out of the classroom I stopped into the library to get Sophie’s new reading book for study. We reward her with a new comic book each time she gets a 100% test (she is currently joyfully swimming in the Boneville series). It isn’t just the comic book reward that keeps her interested in reading; today when I handed her the new book in the car her brows furrowed and she read aloud, perfectly, to her brother. They both simply love to learn and love the world around them. They truly deliver energy and inspiration to the depths of me.

And Nels… “I like your sheets.”

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