For the last few months, I have worked full-time as a literacy tutor at a primary school, my first job out of college. If you are a kid person, you will believe me when I say working at a primary school rocks. The world would be something different, I think, if we each spent time listening to and laughing with kids, or wondering about the beautiful things they could accomplish with their lives. They inspire selflessness and a profound desire to see them thrive. I have been struck by the individuality of my students, how each of their lives presents something special, how this causes me to think of every child in every nation in a new way.
These kids have blessed me.
And they have made me laugh. Oh man. Like, a lot. In honor of this and the end of my term as a tutor, I thought I would share some of my amusing and memorable experiences on the frontlines of early education:
On kids’ unique understanding of the ways of the world:
Boy: “Hey Ms. Ellie, are you and Mr. B married?”
Me: “No, I’m not married. Mr. B and I just work together.”
Boy: [stunned] “You’re not married?!”
Boy: “. . . But . . . not even to your cousin?”
Another boy, as we walked to my classroom: “Did you know God is holding my hand?” [Then, in explanation] “He’s in the air.”
Same boy, different day: “Someday the Earth is going to crash into the sun, but it’s okay because my mom told me this is just our pretend life.”
On kids’ heightened emotions and sensitivity:
While walking past one of the students’ bathrooms, a boy emerged shouting, “Help me!”
Me: “Whoa, what’s wrong?”
Boy: “That man pushed me over!”
Me: “What man? There is a man in there?”
Boy: [gesturing towards the bathroom] “Yes, that tall man! He pushed me over!
Here he comes!”
Me: [bracing for a confrontation]
[A marginally taller seven-year-old walks out.]
One afternoon, I encountered a boy crying as he held the door for his classmates:
Me: [kneeling down to his level] “Hey, what’s wrong?”
Boy: [completely worked up, trying to talk between sobs and wiping his glasses]
“I am holding the door because I’m the helper–and I want to give everyone a high-five–but my hands are so sensitive! I can’t!”
While reading a book about a squirrel to a group of kindergarteners, we came across one of our words for that book, “brick,” and I asked if anyone could tell me what they remembered about it.
Girl, 6, immediately raising her hand: “Oooh!”
Me: “Yeah, what do you remember about the word ‘brick’?”
Girl: [ecstatic] “I had a white rabbit once!”
Me: [perplexed] “Um, that actually has nothing to do with our word. Can anyone else tell me what they remember–”
Girl: [Starts bawling loudly, her face turning red as she buries it in her hands. The other students stare in awe. I stare in awe.]
Me: “Oh, honey, what’s wrong? It’s okay that you don’t remember what ‘brick’ means! I’ll just ask one of our friends to help us out!”
Girl: [bringing her face up from the table, looking at me like I’m an idiot] “I h-h-had a white rabbit once, and I r-really m-miss him!”
[After composing herself, she went on to tell how her rabbit had run away but comes back “every winter.” I had some doubts about this, but she was smiling brightly by the end, so I just congratulated her on her rabbit’s perseverance and timeliness, and we moved on.]
On kids’ . . . honesty?
While explaining to a small group who the author and illustrator of our book that week was, the following interaction occurred:
Me: “The author of our book is Robert Kraus . . .”
Students: [nod their heads]
Me: “. . . and the illustrator of our book is Jose Aruego.”
Students: [gaze at me with utter confusion]
Girl A: “That’s so weird.”
Girl B: “What even is that name? Ms. Ellie?”
Boy: “Whaaaat? What name?”
Girl C: “That sounds like China talk.”
Me: [face palm]
On kids’ unbridled displays of love:
All of the kids everywhere: “Ms. Ellie! Hi! I know who she is! She comes to my class! Ms. Ellie! Ms. Ellie, did you know I have a baby brother? Ms. Ellie, guess what my middle name is! Ms. Ellie, guess what my middle name is! Look at this scratch on my chin/elbow/knee! Can I hold your hand while we walk, Ms. Ellie? Ms. Ellie, I have a loose tooth! Look at this tooth! Look at how much I can wiggle it! Ms. Ellie, do you see the waves in my hair? Do you?”
This list could go on, especially if I included all of the incidents involving bodily fluids, but I’ll spare you. Be kind to the kids in your life today–and be silly with them! Here’s to six months of tutoring and learning more than I could teach!