When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. – Robert Fulghum
When was the last time you stepped into a day with skepticism, wondering if it would be cataclysmic or a fizzle? What you would you expect from a day adventure with sixty 5th graders? I didn’t know what to expect so I volunteered. Maybe you’re thinking, that was brave, or that was crazy, or you might be thinking – What were you thinking? I was thinking this is going to be amazing, and it was. We were on a school bus for an hour to the destination and, of course, an hour back. In case you’re math challenged like I am, that’s two hours, with one bus driver, two teachers, and two parents surrounded by a passel of 10 year olds in all shapes, sizes, and personalities sitting three to a seat.
Here’s what you would love about my experience, and why you will wish you had been there with me. When we were waiting in the classroom to board the bus, I noticed how incredibly tiny their shared space is. Adults, take a lesson here. If you think your cubicle at work is the size of a postage stamp, I can show you a room that would make your space look like a palace! As the teacher looked around the room to see if all his students were there, he didn’t call out names from a list. He asked the kids to “Check your neighbor.”
That might not mean anything to you, but I was touched as I stood in that room and watched the kids look around the room to see if the person who normally sat next to them was present. Building relationships while taking attendance. As adults, do we check up on our friends, neighbors and loved ones when they don’t show up or it’s been awhile since we’ve seen them? Ephesians 5:21 “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.” I’m not good at checking up on people. I need to get better at that.
The bus ride was like any other bus ride. Lots of conversations all the time. One little boy – of course right next to me – decided it was time to get really sick and he did. On the floor. Quick! His teacher grabbed the waste basket and this little man spent the entire ride leaning over it. I felt so bad for him. All I could do was offer him some antibiotic hand wipes. His friends on the bus … did they go “Ewe…” and scatter as far from him as possible? It’s a little hard to move while confined to limited space, but nobody ostracized him. Romans 14:19 “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.”
When we got to the classroom of the Air National Guard where Starbase is held, the first thing I noticed was the Periodic Table of Elements on the table. What?!?!? These kids are in 5th grade! We did a number of experiments with the changing state of matter. Protons, neutrons, atoms, molecules, atomic weight – it was awesome and unbelievable. Pouring, measuring, waiting, sharing, taking turns, watching, supporting. If you have a school age child and wonder how they react to learning difficult subjects at school, thank their teachers. The teachers were right there encouraging and instilling in these kids the words of Proverbs 19:15 “Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.” Adults, are we still learning? Our academic days might be long past, but our minds should be open to learning. In fact we should adopt the mindset to always be learning.
I learned a lot from fifth graders that spanned far beyond the chemistry lesson. I learned about the chemistry of teamwork and relationships.
I saw firsthand how our students are being taught to get along together, be owners of their attitudes, and be caretakers of each other. The teachers had the respect of the students, not because they demanded it, but because they model it themselves. There were a few tiny hints of competitiveness. “Pick me. Pick me.” Not everyone can be first all the time, and we have to accept that, maintain diligence, and move on. As adults we can learn a lot from 5th graders. Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
Parents and teachers, you have an endless job that has eternal implications. I celebrate the teachers who are the keepers of our children all day long, and the parents who are the front line trainers. I appreciate all the hours of classroom training where our kids gain knowledge from textbooks and learn life skills as supplements to what is taught at home. Teachers and parents are responsible to live their values with wisdom and high moral character. What is modeled at school and what is modeled at home is being projected onto the next generation. Children learn what they live.
My day at Starbase is over and it was a huge success. Yes, the day was crazy. Crazy fantastic!
Hey this reminds me of something. Shake it off. I know. Right?
If this looks familiar, that’s because it’s a repost.