December 3, 2021- The three ten-year old girls giggled and smiled at me, whispering, while going about their work, in the minutes before it was time for the class to be dismissed for lunch. This has been part and parcel of many preteens’ growing into a world where they must size up even those furthest from them in age, getting a sense of whether theirs is a safe environment or their guard needs to be raised up. I have seen it for nearly five decades now.
It was more uncertain, when I was younger-and in the years before I was married. Throughout, however, my main concern with all students has been to keep them focused on acquiring thinking skills and making sense of what they might want to do as adults. The process starts, really, when a person masters mobility, then speech. However nebulous it seems to both the little one and to those around her/him-basic interests and skills can be ascertained from the child’s play habits and choice of activities. My son was interested in motorized earth movers, even before his dinosaur phase. His 4-year-old second cousin alternates between building things and driving his Tonka truck around. Another second cousin is strictly into his drivable toy truck. The girl second cousins have a wide range of interests, from chess and the ecology of construction work (an eight-year-old) to ecofriendly farming practices (a ten-year-old).
The students with whom I worked today are well-spoken, very much into independent learning and still keep the spunkiness of preteens. They are at once capable of handling a lot more responsibility than many of us Boomers were given at their age and remain very much in need of respectfully offered adult supervision. There will always be a need for this last, no matter how empowered and enlightened a person is in middle childhood, or adolescence, for that matter.
On this fifth day of “Seventy-One and Counting”, I felt equally valued by both the kids and by the mostly contemporary adults with whom I enjoyed a pre-Christmas Dinner, at the American Legion Post. It was our first such dinner in two years, and all the stops were pulled out. The Prime Rib and fixings were well-prepared by a seasoned chef and her 22-year-old sous chef. The pianist played tunes designed for relaxation and the sometimes raucous conversation just added to the enjoyment of the evening.
I can envision a similar gathering, maybe sixty years hence, of those who sat in the classroom today, maybe not under the same auspices, but in celebration of their camaraderie and a shared joie de vivre.
May they long walk the Realization Road.