May 26 ē 03:37 PM

Small pleasures from teaching little ones

September 22, 2010
Most of you know I tutor at Weston Elementary. Some days I feel that maybe I'm getting a little old for the job. After all, my knees don't work so well for kneeling or crouching down to a kid's level anymore. But now and then something happens to let me know I'm still in the loop. Because tutoring usually involves meeting with the kids one-on-one or in small groups, I guess it's just the right job for me. It allows me to work, as I like to say, eyeball-to-eyeball with the students, developing a trusting and intimate relationship with them.

As I reminisce, I'm forced to think of the kindergarten boy who asked me what was on my neck. Having recently had lunch, I swiped at what I supposed was spaghetti sauce or salad dressing or something like that and asked, "There. Did I get it?"

With no guile, he replied, "I didn't know it would come off."

See what I mean? Kids tell it like they see it. They haven't learned all the nuances of political correctness. He didn't beat around the bush about me needing to do chin push-ups. He just called it like he saw it, with the same level of honest childlikeness as the kid who wanted to feel my arm muscles, bless his little heart.

Now what would ever make me think I'm too old for the job? Actually, maybe the fact that they all look to me as "the grandma around there" isn't a bad thing at all. Grandmas are known, after all, to be good guarders of secrets. Safe places. I therefore get to hear some of the stuff they wouldn't dare, or care, to divulge in a classroom setting.

Sometimes I'm just on hand when someone has news to share. "Our bus broke down," said one little charmer this morning. "It took 15 hours to fix it--or 15 minutes, something like that."

The good stuff doesn't stop there. Now and then, when I'm out and about, I'll see a chid tug at his parent's sleeve and whisper, "Mrs. Tanis is here."

Last evening when I was at Ruth Hughes, returning a book, a little boy I tutored last year held out his hand, opening it just far enough to let me peek at the library card he was clutching it like it was a little stash of gold.

"Yess!!!" I thought. "My days of getting down on the floor to do puzzles or play marbles may be past, but I have sat across from at least one little guy and helped turn him into a proud library-card carrier. And that is far better than gold."

Willene Tanis is a longtime resident of the Imlay City area and an active volunteer in the community. Many readers find her 'Perspectives' column to universal and uplifting.
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