The strength of children
Over the past two weeks, Ive had the pleasure of serving as a cadet teacher at Westridge Elementary School. For an hour and a half every day, I get to work with fifth-graders and give back to the school that was such a defining influence in my life.
For the most part, the work is relatively banal, but fun I make copies, file items, help with math as needed. Im taller than all of the kids there, which is an added benefit, since it really makes me feel adult-esque.
A couple of days ago, though, I was confronted with a fact that was relatively shocking, challenging all preconceived notions of children and high schoolers and basic stereotypes of the hyperactive youth. This revelation, startling as it may have been, was remarkably simple: These children were awesome at fire drills.
In orderly lines, they stood facing away from the building, not talking, hardly fidgeting, as the teachers went through roll call and worked to account for every kid in the entire building. It was remarkable. The children knew where they were supposed to go, and as they led me there, seemed remarkably certain of their destination.
In high school, at least here, the sound of the fire alarm is normally accompanied by a teacher yelling out a destination on the field, and then a wave of people making their way down. Without the hive mentality, its debatable if I would ever make it to that meeting spot. And once there, we mill about and raise hands as roll is called, a tangible example of the law of entropy that chaos like a fire drill will only breed more chaos.
We fidget and roam, calling out to friends in other classes, occasionally huddling in the cold and part of this is because, due to our schedules, we rarely have the brain space to remember eight different locations to meet, much less that we should, arguably, be practicing how we would actively behave. Our friends are so close, and its so nice to check in and catch up and post it all on our Snapchat stories.
Those elementary school students are practiced professionals. I like to think that this may, in part, be due to the fact that a fire drill still seems like an important and serious time to them, and the attitude, as you grow up, is to treat it like a social venture. For as much as they enjoyed the recess before, where they laughed and played, once they reach those lines, they quiet down, stop talking and wait for the all-clear.
I dont remember if I acted like that, to be honest, but its easy to imagine myself, eight years younger, still 5 feet, 3 inches tall, standing patiently in line and treating it with the utmost seriousness. I was probably the kid that shushed the other kids for talking but I dont remember. I wish I did. Some reminder of when I took those things seriously would give me some perspective on how I should treat them now, and how I need to stop complaining about the combination of inclement weather and fire drills.
As a generality, when people want you to stop doing something perceived as being a nuisance, they tell you to stop acting like a child. But now, looking back on when the blacktop was crowded with still-10-year-olds and seeing how the turf now is a churning mass of roaming teens, I think the saying is a little bit inaccurate.
People should stop saying that youre acting like a child teenagers can be infinitely more petulant, whiny, disruptive and fidgety. People should aspire to be more like those fifth-graders I get to watch, having fun for every last second until its time to buckle down, and then acting serious from there.
Basically, I guess Im saying, we should all start acting like a child.