On Tuesdays and Thursdays I volunteer at a school in Normandy, doing literacy activities with struggling second and third graders.
I leave each day with way more than I have given.
It's hard to explain but maybe this will help.
I work in a small alcove in the second grade hallway. Today, as I worked with my first student of the morning I noticed one of my other students, B., as he walked into his classroom. He was late and the slope of his shoulders and the lag in his step told me that he was not ok.
Twenty minutes later it was time to see B.. His teacher, not at all pleased, told me that B. was behind in his work and asked if I could finish a workbook page with him rather than do our literacy activity.
B. and I walked out of the room, workbook in B's gloomy hand.
As the door closed behind us he said " Sorry, but we're not gonna have a good time today, it's just a terrible day."
I let him know that terrible days can be turned around.
"Impossible" he mumbled.
"My daddy told me to wake him up at 9 oh oh. And I did. But he said he needed more sleep. So I let him. Then he woke up and it wasn't 9 oh oh and he was late for work and now he's really mad at me. And the only way you can make this day ok is if you know how to make my daddy forget that happened because he's so mad at me".
I stopped and knelt down and said, "Your daddy loves you more than anything and sometimes when a parent gets mad they lose their temper. But your daddy loves you."
He shook his head.
I swallowed hard.
"How about we work hard to get your workbook finished and then we'll have time for the Piggie and Elephant book I brought".
Right now, Piggie and Elephant are just about perfect in B.'s mind. A few weeks ago I introduced the series to him and now he knows what it feels like to LOVE a book.
He shrugged, "Ok"
We got through the workbook page, which was at least one year ahead of his current ability and
so very dull.
But we did it!
We finished with enough time for Piggie and Elephant!
As we read the book, in the midst of knee slapping laughter, B. looked at me and said,
"I feel so happy!!".
I returned B. to his classroom, completed workbook in one hand, new Piggie and Elephant book in the other. We walked through the door with our shoulders high and a spring in our step.
In 20 minutes we did the impossible.
And as I closed the classroom door I thought,
I feel so happy.