As long time readers know, I spend Friday mornings making sure my cleaning lady stays happy. Today was no different. But once she left, I missed out on my usual routine of relaxing while enjoying the tidy silent home and the official beginning of the weekend. Instead, I put Dog Four in the car and headed off for the school. My twelve Secondary kids (ages 12-14) had planned another film evening – which means sleeping over in the school, ordering pizza deliveries and watching DVDs. My colleague Dave agreed to supervise them, but could not come until 4 pm. I agreed to “babysit” from 1 pm till he arrived. As a condition, though, I said I wanted to bring my dog and go for a walk for part of the time. 10 said yes and 2 no. I said that was a problem, because I couldn’t leave those two back in the school alone. They quickly agreed to join us.
When I arrived today, they were outside playing a ball game which was promptly interrupted by Dog Four excitedly greeting each one in turn. The first thing out of their mouths was that they wanted to do the walk first and cook lunch afterwards. So we set off pretty much immediately, with the kids taking turns holding the leash – working out a plan among themselves for who gets the dog and when. We wandered for an hour and a half as constellations of different kids formed and reformed. I noticed two walking and talking who had never given one another the time of day before – at least not that I had witnessed. That was nice to see.
When we got back to the school, 5 or 6 girls promptly went into the kitchen to start cooking spaghetti. I asked them if they had everything under control and they said yes. The other kids were up in the classroom listening to music or in the yard playing soccer. With nothing to do, I started tidying up the little lending library and adding some new books I had brought. One of the kids walked passed and asked me if I needed help.
When I went back to the kitchen, the table was set and all twelve were assembling for their late lunch. When we were done, the girls got up and left and the kids who hadn’t cooked started cleaning the kitchen. Fifteen minutes later it was spotless. You would never have known that a meal had just taken place. The last one to leave the kitchen had turned off the light.
In the final hour they played Ping-Pong and soccer and hockey and then Dave showed up to relieve me. I wished them a fun night and left our little gymnasium for the parking lot.
But I stopped and looked at them for a few moments through the window before I got in my car. They were all running around, whacking at the ball, laughing and talking. I realized that in the entire afternoon, there had not been a single argument. Not one kid had been slighted or excluded. None of them had said anything the slightest bit gossipy or mean. They were self-sufficient and knew how to compromise in order to come to a group consensus.
They hadn’t needed me. The afternoon would have probably gone exactly the same if I hadn’t been there at all – if they had been “unsupervised”.
They are a great bunch of kids – every last one of them.
I find that I am really looking forward to tramping through London with them a month from now. When we decided to do this trip, I said I would take care of the flights and accommodations, but that they would have to plan our days there. We started learning a lot about London’s history and sights. Here is what they have come up with so far – the first draft of our itinerary. I then split them into three groups, one for each day, and they are now working out the details (which buses or underground lines to take, which order to do these things in, how much time we will need, what the costs will be, etc.) My plan is to have them take charge, read maps and figure things out for themselves. They can lead me around. (They will probably end up cooking for me too!) My job is simply to be there.
Sort of like today.