Mary Beth Writes

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10/12/2021

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I’m just back from volunteering in the third grade.  I’ve done this for five years; Laura Zahn who is this class’s teacher, plus her friend and fellow teacher Mara, have become among my favorite people in Waukesha. 

Volunteering during Covid wasn’t simple. Last year I read stories aloud virtually. I also wrote individual letters to kids and they wrote back to me; anything to get a kid to practice writing. That was a lot more work than you’d think but also extremely rewarding. In case you are wondering what to say to an 8-year-old whom you do not know; talk about dogs and cats you know, have known, or have heard about. Kids REALLY like animals.

Anyways, it’s been 18 months since quarantine put the kibosh on our regular routines. I’ve finally had the vaccine and as of two weeks ago, the booster. I wore a mask today although most of the kids weren’t. Waukesha School Board doesn’t require it because loud opinions rank higher than science. 

Hanging out with a lot of unvaccinated kids who mostly don’t wear masks reminded me of the Bible story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den, where God shuts the lions’ mouth so they don’t kill Daniel. Unsettling that that story popped into my mind as I sat next to a petri dish of a kid, on a bench in the school hallway, pointing to the words in the book he was reading right then. I think we had six inches between us. I took another shower when I got home. 

(There are people in Wisconsin suing school boards, including Waukesha’s, because their masked kids are getting Covid at school from unmasked classmates.)

The kids are currently in a pedagogical section called “Living in My Community”. For the next few weeks, much of their reading, writing, math and social studies will be related to this theme.

Their writing assignment this week starts with bubbles. Picture a regular piece of paper with one empty bubble in the middle of it. Eight bubbles encircle that middle bubble. Kids get daunted by needing to write a paragraph and then another paragraph. Teachers give them these shapes to fill in with a main thought in the central bubble, then random related thoughts in the outside bubbles. See how this is a good writing exercise? Next time you have to write something hard and you are intimidated, consider starting with bubbles.

So the kids start by writing “How to Help My Community” in the middle bubble. Then they are supposed to think of eight ways to help their friends, school, family, neighborhood, etc. They write those ideas in the orbiting bubbles. The kids don’t exactly know yet that when they get their bubbles filled in, they will turn their thoughts into sentences and then those sentences into short paragraphs.

I told Laura when I was leaving that I would try to think of some interesting ways I have helped my community or my community has helped me.  She will share this with the kids to prompt them to think bigger and more widely. Right now, many of them are stuck on “Don’t litter.”

Which is why I am writing to you right now. What are cool ways kids can help their communities? What did you do when you were a kid? What are interesting ways kids have helped you? These are kids without a lot of resources, without helicopter parents, many of whom spend a lot of time playing computer games on phones. You can suggest they run a bake sale in their neighborhood but that kind of big project will never happen. They don’t have the resources or adults to help them do such a thing.

Here are some ideas I had.

* A huge thicket of lilac bushes grew about a half mile from where I lived when I was growing up. My guess is that many decades earlier a family had lived in a cabin right there. They planted one lilac bush but then then moved away and the cabin dissolved back into the earth. The lilacs kept growing and many years later they were amazing. Plant a plant that will keep on growing.

* When I was pregnant with my last child, my 4-year-old learned how to tie shoes so that he could tie my shoes for me.

* I was working in my yard this spring when some neighborhood kids asked if they could help and I said yes. They helped me plant some seeds. 

What other ideas do you have?  I will collate them and email them to the kids within a day or so. I absolutely promise you these kids will think they are being recognized by rock stars if you suggest an idea and then allow me to use your first name and you say what town you live in. 

 

“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.”
― Alice Waters

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Later in this afternoon:  These suggestions are wonderful!  I will be collating them this evening to email to the class.  I love the bookmarks! 

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https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-45958313 I saw this story about designating a buddy bench at recess so kids can communicate that they need a friend to play with. Another idea is to draw pictures and write encouraging words on the sidewalks, like ‘spread kindness’ or ‘let’s take care of each other.’ Adults may see the words and get reminded that we have the power to be kind.
Mary Beth's picture

These are cool ideas kids can do. And i know what city you are in...

Sometimes just knowing that others are in the same boat lessens your emotional load. How about inspirational sayings to be posted on the grocery store window “ Have a happy day,”. “ We’re all in this together!”, (of course the unvaxed are a good reason we are ALL in this together). A collection tub for the food bank at the same grocery store.
Mary Beth's picture

I think some of these kids would really like these ideas. If you see this, can you tell me (again) what town you live in? You don't have to, I just have forgotten...

Rake leaves for neighbors. Trick or treat for UNICEF. Make handmade cards for shut-ins, hospitalized kids, nursing home residents, etc. Draw a hop-scotch game on a walking path to give older walkers a smile.

Have them say *HI*to an older person... I'm only half old but I know how it makes me feel and I have people... NOT all older people do, some have no one, and it could strike-up a much desired conversation... A few weeks ago I was standing in the checkout line at the bakery, a three yr old girl behind me asked her mom if she could say HI to me, mom said yes so she did... I said HI back, she then told me that she thought that my mask was really cool and that she liked how colorful it was... I thanked her and admitted that I wasn't all that sure about my choice until she gave me her approval... We kept up our little conversation untill it was our turn to pay... She put a big smile on my face and made my whole day... And it cost her nothing... Her mom was beaming with pride (I can't blame her, she did good)...

I remember my daughter and some friends (at about age 8 yrs) making book marks from scrap paper, then coloring and writing mottoes on them to share with our neighbors. Milledgeville, GA

Learn the names of people - mailman, grocery worker, etc. Greeting people by name always makes them feel good and possibly leads to reciprocation. Owensboro KY
Mary Beth's picture

I very much like this thought. We knit the world together when we know each other.

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