By: Aletha Spang
It was a calm Wednesday in the teacher’s lounge where Christian and I were cowering in between lessons, trying to find shelter from the overwhelming amount of new faces. Mrs. Keir, the kindergarten teacher, popped in as we contemplated our existence. “The kindergarten class is going on a field trip to sing at the senior center tomorrow, and we’re running short on adults to help. Would you and Christian mind coming with us?”
Christian and I looked at each other. We were still new to lesson planning and teaching as a partnership, and sudden changes in our schedule were alarming. But we were also a little scared of doing anything but agreeing with the teachers at that point, so the next thing we knew, we were signed up to help.
Thursday morning dawned bright and cold, and we made our way to the kindergarten classroom. It seemed as though the number of winter clothing accessories kept multiplying exponentially as we tried to force them onto small arms and heads. I tried four times to squeeze a girl’s hand into her glove, but her fingers kept bending in every direction but where I wanted them to go. She giggled as I gave up, and left it to the more experienced teachers, who got it in one try.
We were assigned a team of students to keep track of on our walk to the senior center, and they bounced over to us in excitement.
“Team, get in formation!” I shouted, and they clustered behind me in a line and marched with their knees high.
We started heading down the road to the senior center. The sidewalks were slippery with ice, and kindergarteners shot around like pinballs up snow banks and down to the ground. The walk was cold and long. The kids chattered happily and clambered over each other as they went. Eventually, we got to the senior center, where an older man opened the door for us and greeted us warmly. The kindergarteners immediately shrank back shyly, staring around at the residents with wide eyes.
Mrs. Keir met with the senior center leaders, and they gave some brief words of introduction before the kindergarteners all got to their feet and began singing the song that they had been practicing for weeks. They were not great singers. Half of them stumbled over the words, and their sign language accompaniment was nearly indecipherable. But their faces were intent as they sang: “One small voice can teach the world a song”, and when they finished, they were beaming.
Each kindergartener had a card and some treats, and they dispersed afterward to find a senior center resident to give them to. Some of the children were shyly staring at the ground as they presented their gifts, but a good number of them were chatting away happily. The faces of the residents were filled with warmth and affection, and it made me realize how precious youth is, and how quickly time goes. The warm feeling was carried with us along the cold walk, even when I forgot my bag back in the senior center, got locked out of the door, and had to sprint around the building and through the park to catch up with the rest of my group.
As a student in elementary, middle, and high school, you often forget the impact of your existence. It can seem as though you are just another student for the teacher to plan around, or just another classmate for small talk. Now that I am working with students and having these experiences with them, however, I am beginning to realize how important the connection between youths and adults is. Although the kindergarteners probably would forget about senior center in a few weeks, the adults, including myself, would remember it as an inspiring and heartwarming event for years to come. We are teaching children about the environment and to take on the responsibilities and burdens that come with adulthood, but they are teaching us to find hope and joy and curiosity in the world, which is more meaningful than I can say.