Volunteer Experiences: A conversation with Zion

These Aren’t Trick Questions

Zion wasn’t writing. Our other kids were working on their writing assignment more or less diligently, but Zion was just silently staring at a blank sheet of notebook paper, looking lost. So I decided to talk to him.

      Hey, Zion, I said. Are you having fun? In retrospect, I don’t know why I said this. Obviously, he was not having fun.

      No, Zion quipped.

      Is there something you’d rather be doing? I asked. He continued to stare at the paper blankly. Is there a game you’d like to play? Silence. Come on, these aren’t trick questions.

      He looked up at me. They’re not?

      Something I try to give the kids I teach with my lesson plans is the ability to alter my lesson plans. There are different ways to teach everyone, but most kids will always assume that the way you’ve decided to teach them that day is the best way, by default. And most kids are willing to go along with any activity you decide to throw at them, as long as you can keep all of your plates spinning. But there are some activities that just don’t work for certain kids.

      Take Zion, for example. The writing activity in question, he felt, was geared toward girls, ultimately telling me flat-out, I don’t like that I’m the only boy here. Pointing out that I too was a guy didn’t seem to get me much headway, so I started to ask him what he wanted to write about. Eventually he suggested ghosts.

      I love ghost stories, I said.

      His eyes widened. Are ghosts real? he asked.

      My friend saw a ghost once, I said. Have you ever seen one? He shook his head. Do you wanna make up a ghost story?

      Yeah, he said. I could tell his creative waves were finally spiking. Unfortunately, our time was up. I promised him we’d make time for ghost stories next week. If I had stuck rigidly to the activities outlined in our lesson plan for that day, would I have made what I felt was a real connection with Zion? I don’t think so. Flexibility, I’m learning, is a key skill to have in order to reach even a small group of curious kids and unlock their creative spirits.

      Plus, I really like ghost stories. Can’t wait for next week!

~By Dan DeMarco

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