Every Thursday morning, I use my precious 2 1/2 hours while the twins are at preschool to volunteer in Isaac and Eliza's classrooms (Ashton has Spanish that day so I wouldn't be much help in there unfortunately - someday I'll learn Spanish!). Ever since the kids started school, I've always begged babysitting or somehow fanagled a way to spend time in the kids' classrooms almost every week. Last year I did special story time with Isaac's class each week and helped Ashton's class with centers. This year I help Isaac's class with writing projects and help low level readers catch up in Liza's class. It's great to be able to use some of my education to help the kids and their friends. It's even greater to be able to see the kids in action at school and learn first-hand what really goes on in their classrooms. But maybe the best thing is seeing my kids' faces light up as I walk in the room - that look of pride and happiness is worth all the sacrifice it takes to be there! And it's also pretty nice to get hugs and "hellos" from a lot of kids whenever I'm at the school for something - I've made some great little friends through my volunteering. But even with all the good stuff involved in volunteering, it's hard not to think of the 100 other things I'd really like to do with that time - the piles of laundry waiting at home, the errands that it would be so nice to do without the twins in tow, the work I really need to finish on the Power of Moms website. And it's hard sometimes to really feel excited about expending energy on more kids when I already feel drained from my own kids' needs...
Last year I did storytime all year long in Isaac's 1st grade class and I don't remember the teacher ever saying thanks. It was hard to tell whether she even liked me coming in or not - but the kids seemed so excited to see me that I kept going. With Isaac's teacher this year, it's a whole different story. Ms Duncan always makes sure the kids chorus "Thank you Mrs Loosli" as I leave and she's told me many times how much of a difference it makes for the kids to have me come. She thanked me and other parents who help in the class newsletter. She's remarked several times that Isaac's class is doing better on writing than other classes she's had because I've been there to help them. I'm only there about an hour a week - can it really make much difference?
Well, for Valentine's Day this year, Ms. Duncan had all the kids write me thank you notes. They're doing a unit on letter writing so it tied in perfectly with the lesson plans. She said she gave them very little instruction and they only spend about 1/2 hour on the project. I was blown away by the great letters I got! I think I really am making a difference - and that feels really good. Here are a few excerpts (I'd scan some in because the handwriting is cute and some are so nicely decorated with hearts and flowers, but I don't have a scanner - sorry):
From Halley, a quiet, smart, chubby little girl who is always working hard and writing so neatly:
"Thank you for helping me and telling me I am so good. And you help the whole class. You must be good at taking care of Isaac and his sister and brothers. You are so nice and Isaac talks about you so much. You are so smart. I wish I saw you all the time..."
From Daveena who has such a hard time thinking of things to write when I'm helping with writing time:
"You are a nice woman and I like your stories (they have these pictures to help them think of things to write about and I've usually got some little story to share about most of the pictures - then that helps them think of their own stuff to write about). And you wear pretty clothes. And thank you for being kind. And you wear pretty shoes too (got about 5 comments in these notes on my clothes and shoes - hmmm, I'll have to pay more attention to what I throw on to go volunteer!). And thank you for letting me go to the swimming party when it was summer (Isaac had a year-end swim party 2 years ago and Daveena asks me whether we can have another one every time I see her). And I wish you could be my mom."
From Alejandro whose English has become really good lately:
"Thanks, Mrs. Loosli for helping us do our work. Thanks, Mrs. Loosli for helping me do that rocket kids story with me, Brett, Kevin, Isaac and Jose and helping us when we have truple with doing some ideas (I spend a few Thursdays with a group of wild boys helping them put together a wild story while trying to reign in their behavior - there were moments I was ready to say I was done working with that group - but they were so cute and excited when I'd help them come up with a really funny or creative next part of the story!). Thanks, Mrs. Loosli for being nice to us. Thanks a lot for spelling words for us. Thanks, Mrs. Loosli for helping us learn the real stuff about the planets for our story. Thanks for everything that you do, helping us a lot."
"Thank you for helping us. You are so pretty. You are my best friend. Can you come to my birthday party?"
From Erik who never seems to be paying attention to anything I do or say and who has such a hard time writing - apparently he dictated this to Makaila who sits by him:
"Thank you for teaching me about bees. Oh, and the polar bears. (from the writing picture prompts) Thank you so much for being nice and for not shouting and screaming. I also like your son Isaac. Me and Isaac don't fight cause it would hurt your feelings and nobody likes fighting. We are good kids."
From Jessica who is facinated with everything I ever tell her. I told her I'd visited a castle in Germany that was in one of their picture prompt pictures and the next week she told me her goal in life was to visit that castle and she wanted to know more exactly where it was...
"You're nice to everybody in this school. Thanks for telling me all of those great stories. I told all those stories to my mom and dad. They like them. Thanks for everything and you are very pretty. I like your clothes and shoes and I want to hear your whole entire stories. How come you know all those things? I wish I knew all those things too, like you. Everybody talks about the things you tell us. You are kind and sweet to me. Thanks for all the work you help us with."
There was way more, but you get the idea. Needless to say, I was touched and realized that little things do make a difference. Now I'm feeling way more motivated about my Thursday morning volunteering. And I'm feeling way more motivated about expressing specific, frequent thanks to those around me. Gratitude is fuel for good relationships and perfect payment for many services. You can get more with sincere gratitude than with money in many cases. So this week I'm going to work on gratitude and see what it can do for me and the people around me.