By Shaghayegh Khodaei
I was a From3to3 tutor at a TDSB kindergarten for the fall semester 2015-2016.
I went to the school for a half day in the morning for 8 weeks and I read story books to small groups of children. In a nutshell, the program was absolutely great for me. It was fun, interesting, exciting and at the same time sometimes boring, tiring and stressful. I am very happy I participated in the program – It helped me contribute to something I valued and made me learn a ton of things that I did not expect.
I saw a From 3 to 3 poster on one of the university’s bulletin boards and it said that they were looking for volunteers to read story books to children; the idea was that with the one-on-one interaction with kids, they would get individual attention, learn social skills and build their confidence.
I thought “oh, wow! This is great! This is a wonderful opportunity for me to help people and contribute to my community! And kids?! Helping kids is just great!! Maybe this will help me find out if I want to work with kids or work in education for a career – as opposed to my computer science career!”
At the same time, the program intimidated me. Can I do it? Is this going to take a lot of my time? Will I be good at it?
I signed up! 😀
The program began with a training session for all volunteers. This was one of the best trainings I had ever received. The training was very much towards how to interact with the child and make them feel comfortable. There was a lot of emphasis on accepting the child’s response to a question with a warm attitude and letting them speak even if they made a lot of mistakes. This all was meant to give confidence to the kids and encourage participation and active response.
But the training wasn’t great just because of the information and knowledge that I was receiving. It was also because I felt very very supported.
I thought :“Wow. How much I wish I had received and felt the same support while I was doing my full time undergraduate studies!!”
My first day at the school was quite interesting.
The way this program works, is that we pick groups of 3 to 4 kids, take them to a quiet place, read a book to them and then ask questions to engage and help them understand the material. When we are done, we take them back to their teacher and pick the next group.
My highlight for my first day was this:
At the school I went to, at 9:30 (about half an hour after I started reading), the kids had their physical activity time where they would go out and play.
I went along with them. I tried to observe them to get a better understanding of these kids: to try to understand who is shy, who has a lot of friends, who doesn’t have friends, who seems happy and who seems disturbed, which kid does what activity, and if anybody is being picked on. At the same time, I also tried to engage with them and have them be more comfortable with me.
All of a sudden, a kid came towards me, held my hand and pulled me to show me the garbage truck.
I was so touched by that! I hadn’t even read to this particular kid yet! Yet he totally came, grabbed my hand, and started telling me about the garbage truck and what it was doing.
“Wow! How this was so new to me. So easy, so effortless, just like that.” 🙂
I don’t want to talk about the details of how each day was, but after my first day when it was lunch time and time for me to leave, I was so exhausted. This had made me more tired than I had expected. I suppose I was tired because of how hard I tried.
My idea was that the kids would be very interested to hear the story and would pay attention! That I would feel I have taught each and every one of them something! That all of them will be so excited and enthusiastic about the stories! That I will be able to control how they learn!
Perhaps that was my mentality because of my computer science background. As if unwittingly, I had the idea that I could control things as though things worked according to some well-defined and correct computer program. Of course, that was a bit naïve of me to think that way.
As I went to school more and more, I learned not to expect an ideal, perfect situation I had in my mind. I learned to be more fluid, not force things too hard and let the kids be.
I learned how much kids can be different from each other. From an early age, some are shy while some naturally made so many friends. Some were more cautious and timid while some were more outspoken. Some showed less regard for others’ feelings, while some were more considerate. And how some of them seemed to have deep feelings from such a young age!
I saw how some kids would get scared and nervous when the teacher was scolding ‘another’ child for inappropriate behaviour; while interestingly, the kid who was being scolded didn’t seem to care. The teacher, in effect was scaring somebody else off and not who they intended to.
I saw how it was almost impossible for me to give everybody equal attention and be fair to kids. When a certain child is too assertive and demands a lot of attention, it is extremely difficult to maintain a balance between the needs of this child and the needs of another shy kid. What usually ends up happening is that they do take more of your time. This was a lesson for me to be learned. Especially as I always thought I would try my hardest to be fair to everyone: I simply couldn’t always do that.
I saw how certain kids would scold other kids for “not knowing how to throw the ball”, while they themselves were faulty of the same flaw. I could see that neither of the kids were good at throwing and catching the ball. But one scolded the other while the other one felt very defeated.
You could say that I learned that I should stand up for myself more.
I loved the physical activity time because I could be one of the kids. Because I could observe them and see how they were. How they fought with each other when they didn’t get along. What their thought process was. It was so cute and amazing.
I also loved some of their responses to the questions I asked at the end of any story.
How deep, unique and beautiful some of the children’s answers were.
In short, I loved the experience.
I learned far more than what I had imagined, I learned and saw things I didn’t think I would learn. It allowed me to experience things I hadn’t experienced before and that in itself is wonderful.