I recently visited with the vice-principal of a grade school in a poorer district of our city who was doing some volunteer work during the summer vacation from school. He was working with a faith-based group who is trying to rebuild our sense of community in our neighborhood. He was a nice young man who held his six-month-old baby on his lap while we talked. His wife, an ex-teacher on sabbatical from teaching, was nearby, very busy with the challenge of managing their other young son who was about two years old and very interested in getting into the street.
I told him that I was interested in developing some ideas for retirees interested in helping young people. His eyes lit up and an animated conversation followed. He said that there is a desperate need for adult involvement of all ages in the school systems. Often today, many parent attitudes about school are limited to expecting the teachers to take the full burden of educating their children. Many children today are single parented, which is a fundamental educational handicap that they face in their younger years. Many of them may be better off without their other parent!
There are little positive support and role models available to many of them. Today’s ‘heroes’ in the media tend to portray the shallow, negative, angry, emotions-gone-wild genre that is so prevalent.
Think back. Most of us can remember parents, teachers, bosses, or friends who set a good example for us and were pivotal in helping go in the right way in life. Who were they in your life?
Can you do that service for some of the young people coming after you?
The young vice-principal said that mentors do not need special education or skills – just a willingness to care! Many students do not have the luxury of someone who cares about them. He told several stories of the difference that caring made in children’s lives at his school. Powerful!
After I got the lump out of my throat, I asked how plain citizens could help. He suggested contacting Volunteers of America, Big Brothers, and Big Sisters, or just going to the school with a sincere offer to help in any capacity. The school may refer you up the ladder for clearance according to local protocol. Then you can start helping.
Much teacher time outside of class is spent monitoring the students. Volunteers might be supportive – again, not to discipline, but to reach out calmly to show them that you really care about them.
Try it! You will make a difference for some young child in need, as well as learn something new and grow yourself.