Sunday, March 4, 2012

I knew nothing in the beginning....

Ah yes, another long, long break from my blog. And now I'm back. Dear blog, I don't think anyone even reads you anymore, but nonetheless, I will blog just for my sanity sake. Blog page, I've given you a makeover since new looks help kick start new beginnings.

I've started volunteering again at the refugee after-school program which is now located in two different Alief Schools (as opposed to their apartment complex). I recognize a few kids from before but most are new faces! I work with K-3rd graders on Thursdays, where we read stories and do homework, and 3rd-4th graders on Fridays, where we do specials projects and crafts. The majority of the children are Southeast Asian (i.e. Thai, Karen, Burmese, etc.), and the rest dabble from Iraq to Congo to Burundi.

On my first day helping the K-3rd graders with homework, I realized I forgot something.... apparently I forgot it a long time ago... it’s called simple math. The chubby and ruddy 3rd grader pleaded me to help him with his math. "Sure," I thought, "No problem. Should be a cinch!" FALSE. How did he know my Achilles heel, word problems? I panicked. I couldn't tell if he could see the color drain from my face as I quivered to pick up his pencil. "Ok, ok..just think.., " as my mind raced to figure out what to do. I'm a very visual person so quickly I drew out the word problem. "Ok, Nick is making 3 bracelets which require 8 beads each [scribble]. If he already has 2 bracelets done and needs to make 3 more [scribble], how many boxes of beads does he need if each box contains 10 beads [sccriiiiibbble, scriiibbble, scribble]." (Note: this problem is not verbatim.) I talked through my drawing to the kid as he blankly stared at me. "Hmmm," I thought, "he must not be a visual learner." After more sad attempts to draw and explain, I think he vaguely understood my rationale but saw right through my faked confidence. "Smart kid", I thought.

The little boy continues to work on other problems and begins to complain, quite loudly, to his fellow compadres around him and me. "This is sooo hard. I don't know how to do any of this. Ms.? Ms.? Can you do this? I don't know any of this. I really don't. " Finally the eldest student and 'leader' of the pack (whom I'll call John) had enough of the whining. "Look! I knew NOTHING in the beginning. I don't even now English. I had to learn everything in Kindergarten by myself. I knew nothing but I tried. Then I started to learn everything. Look, I can do it by myself now." he said. Now, I stood there staring blankly in awe at John. "Amen" I thought and wondered if he had had read Plato or something. At the end, the little boy picked up his pencil and began to work again.

That day was a lovely reminder of going back to "step 1" and that "step 1" isn't easy, and it shouldn't be. And no one can make you take or tell you what that first step is. We can learn from figuring out that first step, taking the first step and also looking back at our first step. From that first step, helps build or formulate the next step and so on; and as you continue to journey through this crazy thing called life, you will look back and see how each step taken, whether painful, wonderful, challenging and/or joyful, grooms and builds you. John reminded me that there should be no shame in not knowing, but not knowing should not be the barrier to trying.

Who would have thought I'd go back to elementary school and learn more by doing so..