What do you talk about when presenting to a class of 6th graders? Add in the challenge that English is a second language for most with a few who don't even speak English and the dynamic gets even more challenging. For me faced with this scenario I decided to talk about how you greet people.
I was supposed to be there to talk to a summer Science & Technology class about ponds and rainwater harvesting. Of course I brought a turtle with me that's always a hit and I got to see some of the hands on models they built as part of the class (who ever knew straws could have so many uses?) But when I tried to engage with the students I noticed how shy and uncomfortable many of them were.
Now, some people think I can be a wee bit intense and intimidating but none of those people would ever say that seeing me with kids. I love kids and want to see them become all they can be! That's why my "talk" quickly changed topics when I saw the natural curiosity of these kids stifled by a language barrier. I quickly changed direction and gave an impromptu performance on how to properly greet someone (go ahead and joke on me doing anything "properly")
Believe it or not no one ever taught me in school how to properly greet someone or carry yourself in general for that matter. Given this chance I wasn't about to let that mistake happen again. I never know what I'm going say or do pretty much until I say or do it. Believe me when I say this is often created many challenges for me. However this time, with this boy, I think what I did and said is exactly what he and they needed to hear in the moment. He didn't greet me well the first time staying seated and shaking my hand with a limp wrist while addressing me with a mumbled voice. So we did it again and again. By the fourth run through something pretty cool happened. He rose from his chair, his eyes locked on mine, shook my hand with a firm grip and spoke with confidence while addressing me. SUCCESS!
Now if your a pond is half empty kind of person you might say without practice and encouragement at home he might lose what he just learned. But at least for this moment in time, this kid found something he might of not knew he even had. For me I can't believe that's not going to somehow prove to be good for him in the long run. He did something he probably hadn't done before and 40 other kids got to witness his transformation with their own eyes. Maybe a few of them will retain this basic success principle and find a way to shine in this world.
As for the boy I used as an example he ended up with earning the only bobblehead I gave out in the class for his efforts. And when I was leaving only one kid helped me carry my bag and turtle back to the car. Him!
I hope every parent works with their kids on real life skills. God knows it's not happening in most schools or sadly many homes. Kids are all of our futures and therefore it's up to all of us to try and make a difference, even a small one, when you can. So say hello to them when you see them and of course don't forget to look em in the eye when you do!