Zayna Usman - Grade 8, Miami Valley School
Smiley Face Stickers
I’ve been longing to make a difference in people's lives, so I joined a group of volunteers that gathers every Friday at a house about twenty minutes away to tutor refugees.
The house was small, on a street with stray cats and garbage bins dumped over. As I made my way over to the house, two little boys came running outside, grinning ear to ear, and without realizing it, I was smiling too, as if it was contagious. I sat beside them on the warm grass. "What are your names?" I asked.
"Yareddy!" one responded. The younger boy, around five years old, was timid and shy. Hesitantly, he whispered, "Sule." All of us sat down and we began the tutoring.
Already, Yareddy was breezing through it. I knew from the first day I met with them that he had so much potential, but he was deprived of the proper resources to expand his knowledge and capability. Sule is, in my opinion, the cutest kid ever. He still to this day insists on sitting on my lap every time we meet. As cute as he was, he didn’t really have any interest in learning.
Even after the first half an hour, Yareddy lost interest. I grew aware of the challenge it would be to keep two little boys engaged for an hour. After the first couple of weeks, I felt defeated. Concepts were taking so long to learn, just because the kids didn’t want to learn. I reminded myself of how capable I was to have an effect on their lives.
I went to the store with my mom and bought all kinds of interactive things to use. I went to meet with them the next week with lots of new supplies, including a different attitude. I sat down with them on the same warm grass we always sit. They both, as usual, were absent-minded and didn’t want to learn at all. But I was bright and lively. I used the whiteboard to make drawings and help them write the letters, numbers, and shapes themselves. I used the real world by walking around and naming objects. Every session, we took a break after half an hour and I help them ride their bike, play soccer, or color. The stickers were for sure their favorite. By the end of every session, all their faces had little smiley faces all over. It was adorable!
I was finally able to teach them better. They were taking an interest in learning and couldn’t wait for me to come back every week. I felt like I really had made a big impact on their lives. I, at last, felt what I had been longing for. Sure, the stickers and coloring books helped. However, the real reason for their change of attitude was mine. I was positive and was making a real effort. It ended up influencing their attitude by making both Sule and Yareddy more positive and eager to learn.