REFLECTIONS – BECOMING A VOLUNTEER

Let me explain, briefly, about my Reflections. In the 1970s when all four of my sons were finally in school and the youngest entered first grade, I was asked to be the editor of the Beachy Banner. Our school, Beachy Avenue Elementary in Arleta, needed someone to type up the monthly newsletter on these long inky ditto masters. The office secretaries in turn ran the copies off to be distributed to all the students to take home to their parents–announcements of PTA meetings and special events. After an issue or two (which I considered dry and maybe just a tad boring, I began writing my own column and titled it “Reflections”. I was also a volunteer at the school and began to find inspiration everywhere I turned. I was really unknown at my sons’ school up to this point–I typed insurance policies at home in my spare time and my husband had his own business which also demanded a lot of my time. But after I began writing “Reflections”, mothers would come up to me at the school, to tell me how much they enjoyed what I was writing. I had found a niche for my writing and it was a most rewarding period in my life, which lasted until we moved to Florida. The following is one of the first of the “Reflections”:

REFLECTIONS

BECOMING A VOLUNTEER

(February 1976 issue of the Beachy Banner)

A hazy California sun shines brightly on the asphalt in the school yard; we are very much like dozens of other elementary schools in Southern California, yet we are unique.

These children are ours alone.

I had forgotten what going-to-school was like, but when I enter the first grade classroom, old memories are stirred..the faint odor of chalk dust, the smell of books and library paste, the sight of blackboard and desks. Yet it is different. It bears little resemblance to the classrooms of my youth; it is cheerier, less structured. There is a rug area and two live-in guinea pigs receive a great deal of attention. Rows of desks have given way to pint-size tables and chairs; walls are happily decorated with drawings and murals.

I know many of these children. My son went to kindergarten with most of them. Some of the children display, with an air of superiority, their knowledge of me; they greet me; they inform the others that I am Kelly’s mother.

The teacher thanks me for coming. I am going to be a volunteer this year. I will spend a little of my time, daily, working in the classroom. Despite the face lift that classrooms have undergone, I note with comfort that the teacher looks and talks the way teachers looked and talked when I was a child. Perhaps some things never change!

Another mother is in the classroom; we are there to help the teacher and her Aide with a math class. We are given instructions, which we promptly forget. Assignments are given out. For an hour we work frantically with more than thirty children. A raised hand means that a child needs help. We dart in and out of a wave of raised hands.

But, a sense of bafflement gradually gives way to a feeling of participation. We are contributing to the education of the citizens of tomorrow. We are in awe of the teacher and her career. There are four of us helping these children during this one, brief, period.

What happens in the classrooms where there are no Aides? No volunteers? What does the teacher do? We don’t know.

After an hour, the teacher thanks us gratefully. We can leave.

Exhausted, we go home.

We have had a morning to think about! **

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