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Helping Little Hands

As I walked into the second grade classroom at Jasinski Elementary School in Buckey, Arizona to help the teacher as a temporary Teacher’s Assistant, coffee in hand, my first thought was to run. Children piled into the room and spilled into every corner imaginable, their little hands reaching for pencils, paper, and pens. Backpacks littered the floor as I hiked to the teacher’s desk. “They’re everywhere!” I whispered half-jokingly to her. She just smiled and continued with her lesson plans. I turned to face the sea of students, wondering what I could be expected to do to help all of them.

For the next hour, I helped them read this word and that so that they could copy their daily assignments into their agendas. I was beginning to feel that the two sides of the room were tugging at me from both directions, every one of the children calling out for help on some trivial matter all at once. “Miss Jessica! How do you spell the word calculator?” “Where are all the pencils? Mine broke again!” and “Miss Jessica! I have to go potty!” were all screamed at me from opposite corners of the room, demanding my attention.

“You, sit down! Kaylie, where is your bell work? That was supposed to be out an hour ago! And Marcus, finish your work before you get a drink!” I screamed, gripping my hair at the roots. It seemed as though I was being forced to scream chastisements at the children all morning and none of them would take the hint. I was beginning to wonder if I had done this because I wanted to help my community or if I was simply doing it for the hours.

Finally, the lunch bell rang and we walked them down to the cafeteria. On our way, the teacher offered to give out three tickets, the class’ alternative to paper money in their tiny class store, to students who could behave themselves all the way to the cafeteria. Surprisingly, the students were immediately quiet as they closed their lips and held their hands behind their back. If I had known that these little pieces of paper would be the answer to their sudden calm, I would have passed them out all morning!

At last, the students were in the cafeteria and became someone else’s problem for a too short half-an-hour. We enjoyed our lunch as we watched the seconds tick by on the clock toward our impending doom: the end of recess. The bell rang after what seemed like mere minutes, and we reluctantly stood up to go retrieve the children.

As we finally opened the doors so that the line of students could walk in, a little girl ran through the doors and threw her arms around my legs. “I saw her first!” She screamed to all of her waiting friends, who all turned with a groan to reenter the lunch line. I smiled widely at them. It was here, in the hold of small hands who I had only met a few short hours before, that I realized that I wasn’t here to be Super Woman or be tortured by these crazy little seven year olds. I was here to make a difference in someone’s day, whether it be the teacher or one of the students. This was my duty as a volunteer. To make a change that I couldn’t have helped create just staying at home for fall break. I now understood that community service wasn’t just some device that teachers created to torture students on their days off, which some students still think is what it was supposed to be. Community service is the opportunity to make a difference in the community that helped build people up by putting them through elementary school, middle school, and high school. Going out and helping that very same community is simply returning the favor.




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