I've been working with kindergarteners once a week as part of Science Club for Girls, an absolutely amazing after-school program here in Cambridge focused toward helping girls explore science and become confident in their own abilities, and I think the number one thing I've learned thus far has been how much I can learn from these kids.
Not only have I been learning my own limits — like the fact that I'm awful at exacting discipline from them, and that I'm incredibly susceptible to the emotional manipulations of little girls — it's been interesting watching them interact with each other and us.
The first week, when the girls saw me and the 8th grade helpers, a couple yelled that they hated us, that we looked funny, and (most strangely to me) that we hated them. As the semester went on — it was clear that that first session was just a testing of the waters, behavior-wise, and how much some of them liked us seemed to vary with the color of their shirts.
It's funny — one of the 8th graders, Rowan, is a little less smile-y than the others, and so usually doesn't get a ton of affection from the girls in return. Today, though (our last group session for the year!), we went to the playground for the last ten minutes of session and everyone was having fun — running, screaming, and generally playing. Most interestingly, the girls seemed to have the most fun pulling her in all directions, sitting on her, tickling her, etc.
At the end of the day, I was amused — I was chatting with my co-mentor and brought up how fickle I thought the kindergarteners were, and how flighty... then thought a little more. Firstly — I realized that the girls' behavior was probably actually affected less by fickleness than by a lack of prejudice and grudge-holding. Their main priority is having fun — not in being right, not in associating only with people like them, not in holding onto snap judgements. Secondly — why was my first assumption that they were being fickle?
Why was I so quick to judge them? What happens to us as we get older — this cynicism in people?
I'm looking forward to going back in the fall — I'll have a bit more time with my Master's next year, and want to see what more I can learn from them about myself and the people around me. :)
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