Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Notes from the Intern: Rainy Monday

In case you didn’t notice, yesterday's weather was not very nice. With the wind and the rain, the most of us were thinking back longingly to last Saturday with its warmth and sunshine. While I was distracted by thoughts of the warmth at first, I had a small revelation that the weather only made clearer. The dreary weather surprisingly made me see how much I enjoy a certain aspect of the Cook Arts Center that is often overshadowed: picking the kids up from school. I realized today that even when the weather is bad, I look forward to the time spent walking back with the kids every day.

Let me explain. Since a good portion of the kids that attend the Cook Arts Center go to Southwest Community Campus, a couple of volunteers meet the kids outside school every day so that they don’t have to walk over alone. This saves parents time since they don’t have to pick them up to bring them to the Arts Center, and saves us from worrying about the kids crossing the street on their own. So, one of my jobs at the Arts Center is walking over to the school every day and walking back with the kids.

But it goes beyond just walking. A situation is created where I can connect with the kids individually and easily talk one on one about their day. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What was the best and worst part of your day?” While the best part is normally “recess,” I have had other times where the kids start telling me in detail about stuff they are excited about. One boy told me all about his science experiment on how different fertilizers will affect plant growth. Later on that week, he excitedly told me about how horse manure made the plants grow the biggest.

Now, the worst part of their day can be as simple as “school was boring.” Other times however, kids start talking about what is going on in their lives, whether it is about problems they are having at home, with a teacher, or with friends. Without being obvious, it gets them in the habit of talking their problems out…and gives me a time for me to help them with things that are bothering them.

One example happened a couple of months ago when a boy was upset because he had gotten into trouble at school. He was really mad and was taking it out on the people around him. I asked him what was wrong, and he proceeded to tell me about what happened. By talking it out, he started to calm down. Then, I was able to help him figure out what he could do to make things better, and eventually he was able to see how he was unnecessarily taking his anger out on other people. While I’m sure this didn’t change his entire outlook on life, it is nice to know that in such a simple situation, he could possibly learn some healthy methods on dealing with the stresses that are in his life.

Today I realized that no matter what the setting is, even if it just walking with some kids so they can go to art classes, a connection can be made. And through that simple connection, you can make a difference in a child's life.

** Shelly is a senior at Calvin College majoring in English and Studio Art. She shares her experiences interning at the Cook Arts Center on this blog once a week. **

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