Homeschooler in a Strange, New School3:07 PM
The graduates lined up, dressed in sundresses and ties, giggling, waiting for the music. Young ladies flashed their smiles at me while I beamed on them; they snatched hugs from me as they passed. I waited with them, watching the other group file out through the auditorium doors. Then it was our turn.
I walked with them part-way down the aisle and then made a dash for my mother. The graduating class of 2010 climbed up to the stage. I grinned like their mother as I watched them sing their songs. And then our teacher found me in the audience and told me I was supposed to be onstage.
One of the graduates' teachers introduced them not only as the graduating class of 2010, but the future class of 2022 - my kindergartners.
When I first started volunteering for the local elementary school, I had next to no experience with the public school system. True, I was a public schooled kindergarten graduate in Nebraska; sure, I rubbed shoulders with public schoolers here and there. But technically I homeschooled from birth. Truth be told, I was not impressed with public schools, and I, in my less gracious moments, held an us vs. them attitude - homeschoolers vs. public schoolers. In my more gracious attitudes, I viewed them with pity - you know, condescending to the poor public schooled kids who couldn't ever be as smart as I, a homeschooler.
Early this year, Friday volunteering began to challenge my presuppositions. Everything was rather new to me and I'm sure my teacher wondered at my ignorance. What's the rule for lining up? What decibel level is "too loud"? Is pushing our chairs in a hard-and-fast rule? Where on earth are the glue sticks?
Needless to say, the homeschooled part of me had a hard time adapting.
Despite my ignorance and hesitation to take action, I loved my Fridays. I loved them. And here are five things this homeschooler learned about her local elementary school:
1. The teachers are amazing. Truly. They're dedicated. The teachers I worked with concerned themselves with tests and grades - not because it reflected on their teaching but because it measured their students' academic excellence.
2. Public school can be fun, different and hands on. The classrooms I visited were plastered with learning helps. Each teacher expressed a radically different personality and teaching style. With nineteen kindergartners in one class, hands on, independent learning was a must - like measuring objects with duck feet or doing math with containers, rice and beans.
3. Five- and six-year-olds are adorable. Had to include that.
4. There isn't a SWAT team ready to kidnap Christians at school. My teacher wore Christian t-shirts; I had a conversation with one little boy who adamantly believed the Flood killed the dinosaurs; and we talked about Sunday school at one table. We weren't sent to the principal's office.
5. It doesn't take much to make a difference. Much of what the Lord used was small - feminine, modest dress, smiles and hugs, a willingness to help, patience, endurance to push swings all recess and assurances of "I love you," "you're so sweet" and "thank you." Children love love. Christians can make a difference in public schools by displaying the attitude of Christ.
After awarding her class their diplomas, my teacher said that she had one more addition to her class: "Miss Bailey Bergmann has been coming every Friday to volunteer." The crowd tentatively clapped as I walked across the stage and accepted a hug, a bouquet and a stack of nineteen handmade cards. Looking through those cards - at the weird phonetics, the "Mrs. Bailey" and the curious drawings - I just melted. So many fond memories and special thoughts were wrapped up in each name. I pray that maybe - just maybe - they would remember how much I loved them and find that that love came directly from Christ Jesus.