Monday, June 13, 2016

Don't Put Ice Cream in Your Hair :Lessons from an Elementary School Cafeteria.

     On a particularly hectic day at work a few months ago, I found myself saying, in my most serious grown-up voice "Why did you put ice cream in your friend's hair, that's not a very nice thing to do!" to which the kindergartner in question just as seriously replied, "I don't know, it just seemed like fun!"
     It was at this moment that I came up with the title for a post I would write at the end of the school year, which I planned to be a comical account of the situations I encounter as a person who works with young children. But since that day, things have happened. Standing in a room helping to supervise large groups of children five days a week has taken it's toll on me. I feel older, and not in a wise way. I feel older in the way that I've probably suffered hearing loss and I feel like I need a nap after work at two in the afternoon. It would be a lie to tell you that my job is always enjoyable and that I arrive and leave every day with a smile on my face. It would be far to idealistic to let you believe that I am not looking forward to the end of this school year, as much as I feel heartless for admitting that. But in the midst of my exhaustion and frustration there is a stubborn writer who can't resist the chance to use that catchy title I came up months ago before the tiredness and frustration set in, so here we are. I myself am surprised at what I'm going to say. I didn't expect current events to be a subject in this post when I thought of that title months ago. That being said, I can't help but notice the stark contrast in the devastating chaos of this broken world we live in, and the temporary, mildly annoying chaos of a few hours in an elementary school cafeteria.
     In a world where mass tragedy  is not the shock of the century, but a reoccurring event that manifests itself in a trending hashtag and temporary outrage until the next big story comes along in a few months, children offer a small glimmer of the fleeting innocence that still exists in the world. In a world where adults take to the internet to debate each other about which tragedy in American history was the most deadly, as if it's a competition to be won, I find hope when I observe that for the most part, children are quick to offer and accept apologies to each other when prompted.  Yes, working with children is exhausting, but it has provided me with a perspective that I hope to always keep close. You see, I get frustrated with the constant conflicts these children depend on me to solve, but at the same time I am deeply thankful that these conflicts are small and manageable compared to the larger and more complex problems they will face as they grow older. It is my hope that somehow, in some small corner of their minds, the way I helped them handle problems in their elementary school cafeteria will help them learn how to solve bigger problems in a responsible way as they grow up.
To the children I love. I'm sorry that you're growing up to inherit a world that is such a mess, but I have confidence in your ability to improve it. I know that I have made mistakes, but I hope the majority of my actions have provided a good example for you. I hope, in some way, I have given you someone worth looking up to. So, don't put ice cream in your hair, don't put ketchup in your applesauce, and don't grow up too fast. Thank you for being you.

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