Last week, I visited Pecan Springs Elementary for the first time, and I had no idea what to expect. After touring the school, we were introduced to our Reading Buddies: four excited, clingy girls and one boy so quiet that at first I didn’t know he was part of the group. One-by-one, we were paired off, and I only noticed the boy for the first time when our supervisor announced that I was to be his reading buddy. Shyly, M (we’re calling him M for now because I cannot for the life of me remember his name; I will remedy this on Tuesday) walked up to me and led me toward the classroom.
Once the supervisor acquainted us with the classroom, we were on our own for the next hour. I had no idea what to do. After engaging in polite, mostly one-sided introductory conversation (the most I had gotten out of M at this point was that he’s a second-grader) M wandered over to the bursting bookshelf and selected a book for us to read. Beckoning me to sit on the floor with him, M instructed me on the proper reading procedure; “You read a page, and then I’ll read a page.”
For the next 20 minutes, M and I passed the book back-and-forth, an elementary-age discussion of racism. I have no idea why M picked this particular book out, but it was a profound choice. Here we were, an African American 7-year-old and a white 20-year-old, meeting for the first time, discussing the importance of treating all people with respect.
When we finished reading, M asked if we could play with the box of Legos. For the rest of our session, M built a castle, complete with a drawbridge and treasure room, and a spaceship. We developed quite the efficient system; I would dig through the box for pieces, and M would show me where he was going to put them and what they would be used for. Ignorant to the shouts of the girls around him, M built structures far superior to anything I could have imagined.
When our hour was up, M walked me back to the cafeteria, and as he headed toward the gym, he turned around and gave me a small wave.
We’ve only met once, but I can already see the impact M has made on me. Before we met up, I was hyper focused on all the homework I had to finish when we returned to campus. But afterward, I felt calm, fulfilled even, since I got to step away for a while and help a second-grader build a castle. I don’t know much about M yet, but he’s inquisitive and thoughtful; I don’t think he picked out the racism book by chance. I’ve thought a lot about M all week, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
I suppose my advice for this week is to listen and be adaptable. Listening to M and letting him take the lead allowed us to get comfortable with each other and establish a quiet friendship that I hope will last the whole semester. If anything, I’ve learned how to make a really cool Lego castle!
– Dorie Kaye, Pecan Springs Elementary volunteer