With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the obvious thoughts that come to mind are things to be grateful for. Luckily, my list of reasons to express gratitude is quite long. I appreciate the love my family and friends share. I work with incredible people and love my job. Above all else, I adore and respect my husband more than anyone in the world. So, naturally I am thankful every day.
However, today opened my eyes to something so much more. After starting Kind Cotton, many people have told Kevin and I how awesome it is that we want to give back to the community, but if any of you could have seen the utter excitement in the eyes of the children at the Newtown Estates Boys and Girls Club today you would know that this is not a job. It’s not an extracurricular activity. Working with the kids today made me remember why it is that I am a teacher. When sitting down to write about the experience, I wanted to ensure that the importance of today was clear. I had to be certain that everyone who has supported us so far would recognize the impact of education. I woke up today and carried out my typical morning routine. As we got in the car to head to the Boys and Girls club there was a pit inside my stomach the size of a watermelon! I kept telling myself that I had prepared for hours, I had all the materials I needed, the books were packaged, and there were wonderful people there to help. Nevertheless, all I could think of was 'Am I going to be good enough?'. Was I going to be able to provide an exciting lesson in which the kids would be interested and enjoy reading?
As I walked through the doors and quietly set up, Ms. Vanesha (the incredible activities director) brought in my first group of adorable Kindergarten, First, and Second graders. They quietly sat down and nervously smiled in my direction. In that moment, my fear flew out the door and the next three hours were a whirlwind of storytelling, crafting, dancing, and overall fun. After initial introductions, I asked the kids their favorite food and a little boy named Chance quickly stole my heart by letting me know how much he enjoyed Shepard’s pie. Anyone who knows my family understands what a staple this was in my home growing up. The food discussion was the perfect prelude to our reading for the day, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie. After a couple of pages, the children were chanting the lines with me and I was in awe of their reading skills! While reading, I held a stuffed old woman and one by one the kids came up to feed her each item that she ate in the story. A few times, I pretended to bite their hands slightly. After each nibble, the laughs that filled the room were contagious.
Then, we created our very own old lady re-telling puppets! During this time, my incredible helpers and I made our rounds and got to know each of the kids a little more. Chance (my fellow Shepard’s pie lover) was discussing with my mom how cold it’s been this past week and she explained to him that in New York, where we are from it had been snowing. Within seconds, I could hear him yelling, “Ms. Kaitlin, Ms. Kaitlin please tell me you know Odell Beckham Jr!” And just like that, I felt a bond with this child that was so unique. It was one of those serendipitous moments that I will forever cherish. As the group began finishing their puppets they all walked back over to the circle area and began sequencing the story and feeding their old ladies all on their own. When one of the children were stuck and couldn’t remember what came next, another student brought the book over, put her hand on his back and offered to help him. We concluded the lesson with every child receiving a copy of the book to bring home and read.
The enthusiasm of reading that filled the room today gave me a new outlook on what I am thankful for. I am lucky to have been given this opportunity to help children feel successful in their education. I am thankful to spend time everyday encouraging children to take pride in themselves and their work. I am grateful to watch children engage in learning with such eagerness and satisfaction. Most of all, I was honored to be in the presence of such loving children who care about others. On our way out today, after multiple hugs, thanks, and we love you, I realized that all is right with the world. So, thank you to the staff, my incredible friends, Amanda and Trish, my mom, Kevin, and all the students who helped make today a beautiful success. I can’t wait to continue this journey!
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