My first day working at the after school program turned out to be much more of a challenge than I had expected it to be. Not only were the children infinitesimally more rowdy than I remember middle schoolers to be (especially for a Monday), but they also lacked initiative to do their homework because they were so caught up in their addictive cell phones and all of the drama on social media.
Instantly, I became very nervous, because I had expected to be around kids who were eager to learn and participate in fun activities. Was this really the place for me to volunteer? Throughout school, I was always the hardworking student who looked forward to doing her homework and would get berated for reading too much. Students who scoffed at the idea of doing their homework or reading for fun were a shock to me.
However, I pushed these doubts aside for two reasons: one, I am not a quitter; and two, I knew this would be a beneficial learning experience for both myself and for the students enrolled in the program.
The first student I had an opportunity to work with, Landon, had missed the past few days of school due to sickness. He had a load of work to make up, mostly from a class that he really didn’t enjoy. He had to complete multiple summary responses to articles of his choice, but they had to relate to certain topics such as cooking, nutrition, or well being. Landon was having trouble finding quality articles on these topics that were still interesting enough for him to want to read.
Together, Landon and I searched chefs’ blogs and websites for anything that may interest him. We finally settled on an article about coffee and its effects on human wellbeing, and read it together. At first, Landon didn’t understand much of what he read, so we went through and read it a second time and looked up explanations for parts he still didn’t understand. I had him write a response to the best of his abilities, and then we read over the summary, and made any necessary changes, such as grammar, style, and vocabulary usage. Throughout the rest of the day, Landon was excitedly sharing facts about coffee with his classmates and the other teachers.
It was great to see this young student suddenly so excited and passionate about a homework assignment he had previously despised so much. And it felt even greater to know I had helped Landon reach this mental attitude towards his work, by sharing my time with him and the other students.
I hope to have similar experiences with the other children in the program and to be able to make a difference in their lives.
Are you ready to have a similar impact on the lives around you yet? Have you found a volunteer opportunity to participate in? Feel free to leave your story in the comments!
**Disclaimer: Names of students have been changed in order to protect their identities.**