Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Being a Volunteer

Barbara Bush Elementary School, Houston
I've done a reasonable amount of volunteering in the UK over the years - with the RSPB at the Mull of Galloway reserve in Scotland, working in a dementia unit with my dog for Pets as Therapy, as a Samaritan offering support to the suicidal and those in need of a listening ear, and as a presenter for local hospital radio.

Currently staying with family and grandchildren who live in Houston, Texas, I'm happily and willingly, as a trained teacher, volunteering in granddaughter's school for the fourth year running. The school is renowned as exemplary, having earned this accolade for succcessive years. It's an independent public school, not a private one, and it welcomes and celebrates diversity in the ethnic range of students who attend.

The ethos of the school is one of co-operation and mutual respect, with high standards aimed at for each individual child, whatever their ability. The teachers are dedicated and professional; the students are engaged, interested and encouraged at every step of the way. Bullying is not tolerated; kindness and consideration are encouraged. It's the kind of school I'd have given my eye teeth to work in if I wasn't retired! And it reminds me of the UK school where I was fortunate enough to teach many years ago. 

So when I visit the family here in the US, where I'm writing this from, I update my volunteer details, resubmit my photo ID at the school's office and within a few days I'm back in the classroom and "back in the zone" as one of the friendly receptionists at the school puts it. I work under the direction of the class teacher - it's her class after all and it's important to be able to fit in. Not only am I able to help, encourage and work alongside the children in my granddaughter's class (and alongside her too), I'm able to use my teaching skills and share in the buzz of being back in the classroom for a few hours a week. On top of that I get to understand a whole lot more about being American, US culture and customs, and  every time I gain new insights and experiences along the way.

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