Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I love 1st graders! Week 6

A great friend of mine from college called me up a few weeks ago to ask if I wanted to help teach a class of 1st graders (say it with me, awwwwwwwwwwww) for religious education at our church. YES! Of course, I'd love to!

Well, they sure were cute, harmless, tiny little people on the first day, but they intimidated me. We all know the real story: I intimidated myself. I have led the Vacation Bible School activities station for years, thus I have seen ADD/ADHD and BOY at their worst in the most freeing environment. "We're outside, why not?" "Because if you pop that balloon over her head, she will get all wet." "Fine, I'll save it for later."

Sheesh. I loved that too, I just needed to find my balance in the chaos.

In this class, we're forcing these kids to "go to school" for an extra hour and a half after the last school bell rang for the day. They just had dinner, they don't know anyone in the class and they don't have any of the prayers memorized yet. I think that formula inspires ADHD in every 6-year-old in America.

Despite my anxiety hiccups on the first day, I loosened up, I'm having fun, and I've received the best compliment a non-teacher-teacher can receive: when we sit in a circle on the floor, there are always a few requests to sit next to them. When we pick our spots, I get cuddled and hugged as I read and ask them questions. Talk about warm fuzzies!

Now that you have some background - Week 6
This is me... not a very recent photo, but am I not adorable?

There is one girl in my class who looks EXACTLY like I did as a 6-year-old, spooky. When her dad picks her up at the end of the day, I fight the urge to say, "If you're wondering what she'll look like in 17 years, I can pose for a picture." She's a really neat kid (I'll call her Grace). Grace is always enthusiastic when telling a story, she wants feedback on her drawings, but doesn't ask for it. She is really friendly, though she joined our class in the 4th week, when friendships had started to form. Grace is exactly the kind of kid I want to have someday.

The Bible story of the day was Jesus inviting the children to come listen to him and telling the grown ups that they could learn a thing or two from kids like Grace. We did a skit. THAT was an adventure in child psychology. Some were outgoing, but acted like they had a camera on them. Others were just smiley and quiet.

Grace's reaction broke my heart. She was supposed to ask Jesus some questions that she had practiced. When we were all performing, her hands came up to her face and her eyes opened wide, letting the white show around the corners. When we looked to her to ask Jesus about loving others and being kind, she shook her head and mumbled in a high pitch. Poor Grace's stage fright was twisting her mind into a panic, so we quickly moved on.

After the play, she was cuddly, normal and cool-Grace-like, having waved the play (and the fear) goodbye for the day. It struck me as especially pertinent for the lesson.

Jesus asks us to be like children, to breathe in the world the way they do. Grace has either made the switch through the age of reason and feels the same anxiety jellyfish the rest of us do, or her reaction gives us insight in another child-like behavior. When I face something with which I am not comfortable (performing on my kickball team is spiking my anxiety, lately), I put up some version of Grace's hands on my face. I can chose to overreact, curse when I mess up, or start beating myself up. OR I can chose to have my little panic and move on, be cuddly and Grace-cool when the game ends.

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