I signed up a month or so ago, when they put out a call for elected officials, professionals, community leaders to come and read a story to the kids for the national African American Read-In, in the neighboring District 89 school district, at a school in Melrose Park. Today was hectic, full of deadlines — I’ve basically been running headlong since I woke up, and yesterday was much the same actually, and tomorrow will be as well, and possibly Thursday and Friday. I am tired, folks.
But I’m glad I took an hour out of my day to go read to those 2nd grade children. I read Obama’s _Of Thee I Sing_, which I won’t claim is the most poetic picture book I’ve ever read, but is certainly both inspiring and meaningful. And I laughed with them, and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. I talked about being an immigrant, and about running for office, and about being a college professor. I told them I hoped some of them would be in my college classes someday.
They were so bright and sweet, and by the end of my 30 minutes of reading and chatting, I think every one of them had shot a hand up in the air with something urgent to say. I hope they keep that eagerness, that willingness to leap right in. It’s going to be hard sometimes. One of them asked me how I could like being a teacher, when there were so many bad kids.
It took me a second to come up with my response to that one — I told him that I loved being a teacher, and I didn’t really believe there were any bad kids. It was just that sometimes we all had challenges we had to try to deal with. Sometimes it was hard. He nodded solemnly in response.
I don’t think I’d have the patience to teach little kids full-time; all honor to those who do. They get so excited, and then there’s a lot of noise, and it seems like half the teacher’s job is telling them to shush so they can hear her, and hear each other. I would get very tired of all the shushing, but they really do need to quiet down some of the time. A little, anyway.
But oh, it was good to hear their stories and see their smiles. An administrator walked me out, and as we went, thanked me for talking about college with them. “For so many of our kids, the only place they hear about college is from us; it’s not going to come up at home. They need to be reminded that it’s a possibility, something they can work towards.”
The kids today wanted to be: a veterinarian, a policeman, a teacher, a doctor, a cartoon creator, a Pokemon designer, a therapist. Right now, at least, they are full of possibilities.