Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Amazing Kids

When I was young I always wanted to be around older kids. The ultimate experience for me was when older cousins would visit and let me hang out with them.

As a young adult I wanted adult things and adult pursuits. I wanted sex and booze and sophisticated conversation. And aside from that I wanted peace and quiet. I never wanted to be in the company of children. Ever. They were noisy and unpredictable and beyond my comprehension. I was always sure I'd never want kids of my own.

Forty-one years into this experiment called life, I had a conversation with an excellent friend who happens to be a very conscientious and free-thinking educator about my desire to re-enter the volunteer community but working with people with special needs.

Super-condensed version of conversation:

"We have kids with special needs in the schools. Come volunteer with us."

"No," says I. "I don't get on well with kids." Okay, so I'd actually never once made any effort to, but it was a safe assumption.

"You like books."

"I love books."

"So you could start out by volunteering in the library, cataloguing our great collection of new books."

"I couldn't do that. It sounds like too much fun. I wouldn't feel like a proper volunteer."

"But you could see how you feel being in a school environment and find out if you might be comfortable working with kids." He then proceeded to tell me stories about some of his former students with special needs which broke my heart in about eight places.

"Okay. Let's do it."

The great cataloguing project took up close to half the school year. The kids and I got along fabulously. I couldn't believe how many of them loved books. That shared love of literature finally bridged the gap between me and youngsters. Then it was time to make the move to the special needs community. And here my principal friend played the trump card.

"You have no experience working with special needs kids. It's not easy. Why don't you run a reading group for advanced readers instead. We don't have the library material nor curriculum to support them."

And once again: "I couldn't do that. It sounds like too much fun. I wouldn't feel like a proper volunteer."

"It's a much needed service and it would be right up your alley."

"Okay. Let's do it."


The experience has been - the bomb.

I'm running three groups which takes up the entire school day once a week. I work with eleven young people; seven girls, four boys, aged 12-14 I guess; grades seven and eight but for one grade sixer who is in a special situation. They're all amazing. Bright. Curious. Sincere.

They're seriously more intelligent than half the adults I know, perhaps to some degree because they simply haven't collected as much detrimental false learning as adults have. They've collected less fears than adults. They've constructed less walls that ostensibly guide people along paths but really serve to block out possibilities in their lives. They're not clinging to societal investments that shut down realms of perception. They're open.

Among them are musicians and singer-songwriters! Some are visual artists, sound-collage artists, photographers and at least one junior videographer! And of course writers and poets. They have socially conscious, enlightened voices that I never heard from my peers when I was that age, at least that I remember.

While ostensibly helping them learn to get more out of their reading and to increase their love of reading, my not-very-hidden hidden agenda is to turn them all into permanent writers and creators. Because the only path I know of thus far to find real joy, peace and harmony in life starts with the contemplation of the blank page and so it is my duty - and joy - in life to propagate the creative and poetic lifestyles.

They still have the possibility of joy and harmony for their futures but of course high school and college will exercise their massive powers to destroy all that, and that knowledge is a needle in my heart because I really do love them. I'd like to take them all home and be their dad and protector but I'm guessing they already have parents who probably would rather keep them! Oh well.

I'm already mourning the approaching closure of the school year and the loss of participation of the five eighth-graders. I hope we'll stay in touch somehow. I hope all the younger ones will return next year.

So what is the deal here? Are these the eleven most amazing kids in the world or are all kids amazing and I'm just the last dull idiot to figure that out?



Roger said...

in my experience all kids are that amazing, you just need to take the time to listen. i work with the occasional group of 4th, 5th, 6th graders. we talk about conservation and clean water...
i always come away from that feeling fantastic!

Sukhaloka said...

YESSSS. Good for you, good for those kids. Sorry Rich, no time for an in-depth comment tonight :(

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Roger, what you're doing sounds absolutely awesome!