Saturday, December 02, 2006

On working with kids

In September, I took a job as a children's leader at an after school care program. For the first three weeks, I worked with kids who were in kindergarten. (Unlike Ontario, there is no junior/senior kindergarten in British Columbia.) These kids amused and fascinated me. They are remarkably well-behaved and well-adjusted, especially when you consider that around seventy per cent of them come from broken families.

These kids will not remember me in the future, but I will remember them for a while ("a while" being an appropriately vague expression for discussing memory.) I had many nicknames for these kids, most of them created by replacing of the last letter of their name with the letter "O." Lily became "Lilo," Grace became "Grace-o," Qaseem became "Qaseem-o" (also "Q"). On several occasions, I noticed Anya ("Anyo") using these nicknames when addressing her classmates.

Anya was a bright girl who showed affection in unusual ways. She also had a zany and well-developed sense of humour. Early in the school year, she would draw pictures and, upon completion, hand them to me, saying, "for you." Sometimes, I noticed these pictures showed a deliberate lack of artistic effort. This wasn't an act of hostility - it just amused her to give me crummy pictures.

Liam (Limo) was every leader's pet child, and although I made a point of trying to treat all the children equally, I must admit that Liam's charms were hard to reist. He was the youngest child in the class and also the smallest, and his adorable face made it clear that there will be plenty of women (or men) in his future. Liam was prone to minor behavioural indiscretions (mainly not listening to instructions because he was busy playing with Lego), but he always apologized when in the wrong, and gave affectionate hugs at random moments.

On the first day of school, Liam approached me with tears in his eyes. He claimed that Matthew had stolen his button. The buttons on Matthew's shirt clearly indicated that the button was in fact his, but Liam insisted otherwise. After my many fruitless attempts to convince Liam that the button wasn't his, I figured out a solution. I told Liam that, when she came to pick him up, I would ask his mother whether or not the button belonged to him. I then put the button into my pocket and told the boys to run off and play. When Liam's mom came, I forgot to ask her about the button. Liam never mentioned it again. Matthew did ask for the button the next day but I'd left it at my apartment. Eventually, he forgot about it too.


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