Last year, in my Kindergarten classroom, we were lucky to have two dads who worked as firefighters. They offered to come in to give a presentation about fire safety. During their presentation they talked about how to prevent fires, regularly changing the batteries in household fire alarms, and the importance of having a fire escape plan that you practice regularly. Then they did something interesting. They put on all of their fire gear: boots, pants, coat, hood, gloves, hat, and breathing aparatus. Then they crawled around on the floor. The kids expressions were priceless. These Dads, who they knew well from after-school pick up, birthday parties, and gymnastics clases were transformed. Suddenly the kids were wary and a little frightened. The dads had planned all of this. Apparently, children will often hide when they see firefighters fully dressed in their gear. I don't blame them; they look a little alien.
I've been thinking about that day this week. Right now, I'm spending time in a school working with teachers but also trying to support students who need a little extra help. I'm new to this school and I likely won't be there much longer. So, these kids don't know me very well. I'm the alien.
And they don't want my help. This week, there have been several grade seven students working on a test about solvents, solutes, and solubility. I used to teach high school science so I know this stuff. I could help. I'm friendly and enthusiastic. I like to think I'm not threatening. But they will wait for a teacher they know - they will wait a long time. They will wait even though I'm in the room. It's been a humbling experience.
But it's also been a good reminder of the importance of relationships in education. My curricular expertise doesn't matter to them; I could have a PhD in Chemistry and it wouldn't matter. What matters to them is the relationship, the connection, the trust. Rome wasn't built in a day. Maybe in a few more weeks I'll have been around long enough to to help. Maybe by then I'll have enough skin in the game to not be an alien.