Seeing The World Through Their Eyes

January 31, 2010
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I walked into school with confidence. I felt my life had purpose. I wasn’t just any freshman. I was the President of the freshman class. The title didn’t give me my identity, but the years of student government meetings, early morning set-ups, endless fundraising and late night cleanups did. I took pride in my busy schedule and productive life. Then for the first time since 5th grade, I lost. Someone else had won the student government election. I spent a few nights wallowing pathetically, dunking pretzel goldfish into a jar of fudge. But soon self-pity grew old and even though I thought I would never find anything I loved as much as student government, I began to brainstorm other ways to contribute to my community. A few months later, upon my first visit to assist at Brookside Primary School, I discovered another activity that I found equally fulfilling: working with elementary-aged children.

Returning to my former elementary school classroom, seeing the pillow-filled story time corner, bottomless bins of colorful art supplies, and neatly printed nametags in block letters on the desks, I felt at home again. Great memories rushed back to me, filling me with a euphoria that I was eager to share. Mrs. Elberg handed me a green pen and sent me to perform “teacher-edits.” She treated me like a colleague, like a real teacher. A new rush of excitement came over me. As I helped with math games and reminded students to sound out the words as they read, the experience opened new doors for me.

While teaching had always appealed to me, only recently had everything begun to fall into place. I arrived at Brookside to smiling children cheerfully greeting me. “Rebecca’s here,” they’d squeal. Nothing helped me get through the stresses of the day more than knowing that when I entered Brookside, I could leave all of my problems at the door and be accepted for who I was. Struggling to fit in at the high school, especially after losing my extracurricular niche, I was so delighted to have a new role. Whether it was helping an adorable paint-covered child get cleaned up after art class or seeing a young girl finally read a line of the story all by herself, I found that in their presence, I constantly wore a smile.

I began to assist more frequently, especially after I got my job at the school’s After Care Program, and I started to see some of the same faces daily. They no longer thought seeing me was exciting or out of the ordinary but we settled into a routine and that too had its benefits. They did not always grin at the sight of me now because they knew I was going to make them do their homework. They did not think I was “cool” anymore because I enforced the “No Eating in the Library” rule. Sometimes they hid information from me because they knew they’d done something wrong. Now they saw me as a teacher and they knew they had to respect me. My students knew that I wasn’t going anywhere.

I had been with these children through good days and bad and I earned their respect and eventually became the first person they turned to, whether they had a minor problem or a major one. Everyday Brody and Jake, the youngest of the crew, burst through the door with excitement and ask me to reach up to put their coats on the hooks. In their eyes, I am tall and for that moment, I get to feel tall, which at my height, 4’10’’, is a rare occurrence. When Lily cried because she got stuck on the monkey bars, I was there to help her down. In her eyes, for one short moment, I was a rescuer. I love the way the world looks through their eyes. I love that Katie marvels at the magic of the automatic Purell dispenser. I love that Evelyn expresses such joy upon discovering the colored duct tape in the craft corner. I love that Robert forgets all about his boo-boo once he sees the Spiderman band-aids. Finally, I’ve found the place where I can help, give, and receive, all without the craziness of campaigning, elections and popularity. With children, there is only winning.

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daffodilsNblueskies This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 12, 2010 at 10:56 am
This is an awesome story! I love your writing style.
notebookgirl said...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm
very well written, its sounds like you've found someting you really like doing congrats
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