Yesterday I made my weekly trek to South Euless Elementary School, where I mentor a couple of boys. One of them is in 3rd grade, the other in 6th. This week, I met only with the 3rd grader.
As usual, I checked in on social media. This time, I checked in with this statement: “What will I learn from a 3rd grader today?”
And my bluff was called. So, what did I learn from a 3rd grader yesterday?
That I don’t always communicate what I intend to communicate, and that if I don’t pay attention, I’ll miss something.
He and I have been meeting together over lunch most of this school year. Each time, he seems eager to sit down with me and start talking.
I learned early on that we are better off if I don’t force the conversation where I want it to go. When I do, I quickly sound like just another older person dispensing advice and wisdom. I know this because I see it in his eyes, and I hear it as he gently mocks me. Sometimes he’ll parrot my words back to me. Sometimes he just says, at increased volume, “You tell me that every week!”
I don’t believe I do tell him the same think every week, but if I argue with him about that, then I’ve lost the battle for relationship before I’ve even started.
It is a challenge for a 52 year old to meet a 3rd grader on his own terms, but if I want this child to respect my experience and the wisdom and insight I’ve gained along the way, I owe it to him to try my best.
We only have 30 minutes together each week. Sometimes this will be filled with significant conversation. Sometimes it will be mostly his making faces at his friends at other tables.
But he still looks forward to my meeting him at lunch. That’s something I’ll take any day of the week.