“In kindergarten, we have to be flexible. Not every day can be the same and we have to be open to change. So, what do we have to be, class?” asked the kindergarten teacher at St. Augustine School, in Andover, Massachusetts. “We have to be flexible!” twenty-seven kindergarteners responded with enthusiasm.
I learned this kindergarten motto while helping in their class the first week of school and it has become my motto for the year. To really be flexible, like the kindergarten students were learning, I was determined to be open to all new circumstances, to try new things, and to adapt when situations change. In the past, I have not always been the most flexible person, preferring to know exactly what I am doing with a calendar planning out all my activities and events. I knew that this year was my year to be different, to trust in God and to be open.
As a full-time substitute at a 450-student nursery through 8th grade Catholic grade school, I have to constantly remind myself of my new motto. Having limited experience as a teacher (I was a communication major in college), I have to assume the role of a teacher and convince a classroom of kids I know what I am teaching 100% of the time, even when lesson plans do not cover the entire class period. Every day is different for me, which is my favorite part of my position. Often, I know weeks ahead of time which grade I will be subbing. Then there are days when I receive an early morning phone call telling me which classroom I will be needed in for that day. So far, I have taught every single grade in the school, including language classes in Latin, French, Chinese, and Spanish. I have also had the position as the gym, music and art teacher for a day. I cannot have any expectations on how my day will go and just have to see where the day takes me.
Through my service site, I have found that I am a flexible person and enjoy working with new students each day. I loved helping the kindergartners paint Advent wreaths and I also enjoyed teaching 8th grade students about the Industrial Revolution. I have no anxiety about trying new things because I feel I am where I am supposed to be and am lucky to have the support of my community and the school where I am working.
My new flexibility motto has impacted my life for the better. I have experienced things, which a year ago, I would never have guessed I would be doing. I participated in a student-teacher academic bowl, have chaperoned a 7th and 8th grade dance, dug a trench for Habitat for Humanity (despite being only 5’3), spent Thanksgiving dinner with Augustinian Priests, attended a mass in Spanish, threw an Augustinian priest a birthday party, led community prayers, spent a day of service packaging letters for prisoners, hiked in New Hampshire and am learning how to drive on the highway with the help of my community members.
Being flexible and saying “yes” is a life-lesson I wish I had learned in kindergarten. However, it is never too late and I hope to carry out my new flexibility motto for the rest of this year and for life.
Lawrence, MA 2015-2016