Recently I left the kids on the front verandah doing school (it was much cooler outside) and went inside for a few minutes to find what the little ones were up to (playing with the neighbour’s son). Returning, I found that in my absence a group of the kids’ friends had arrived and were ‘helping’.
Our lives are full of interruptions, most of which we adjust to fairly well (we’re generally very flexible people), but this day I confess that I was just a little frustrated. It’s hard enough to get a full day’s school done with the others things that come up, but to have friends come to play on their days off (when they all know we do school in the mornings) isn’t very helpful – our kids would love to be out in the bush (up the mountain, climbing rocks, making cubby houses, building fires, shooting arrows, getting dirty…) all day every day, they don’t need anyone else reminding them of the fun they think they’re missing.
So back to that day. I was on the verge of sending the kids away but compelled me to pause and observe for a moment.
One boy, a good friend of the kids, had sat down to do Levi’s maths worksheet. Although he’s the same height, this friend is actually older and in a higher year level at school. The activity was a struggle for the boy, but he was keen and determined and persevered for a long time through the problems on the page.
And as he persevered, what happened around him made my heart full. I watched as Levi patiently taught him what he needed to do and asked questions to help this friend get to the right answer himself. I saw the other boys crowd around encouraging him, suggesting ideas and providing answers (of varying helpfulness and correctness). A worksheet that I’d hoped Levi could do in five minutes took this boy far, far longer, yet he continued to the end.
And at the end there was real joy – the boys all cheered, my kids insisted he’d earned stickers and the boy in the middle held up his work for me to see with a quiet smile on his face that said “I did it”.
I thought I was teaching a maths lesson, but what happened was so much more than that. There was teaching (by someone else). But there was also motivation, encouragement, collaboration, belief and perseverance.
I saw empowerment at work and the joy it brought to everyone involved.
And ultimately, I think I might have been the one who did the most learning.