By Caleb Jones, corps member serving on the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation Team at Kendall Whittier Elementary School
Before City Year, my experience working with children was minimal. Even after I arrived in Tulsa and had gone through much of our basic training, I was still uncomfortable with the idea of working with younger kids. I have always considered myself a cerebral person, and I couldn’t imagine what I, in all of my post collegiate wisdom, could talk about with a young child. Beyond this I didn’t feel that I fit the profile of the person you would expect to work with younger kids—I wasn’t as peppy as those who populated my own elementary school experience.
Anyway, despite my early reservations, I have spent the last eight months in a third grade classroom, and, as cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t change my experience for anything. Looking back, it seems that I had no conception of what an eight year old is really like. More than anything, I had no idea how profound an eight year old can be. On one of my first days in the school, a third grade girl came up to me and asked: “Mr. Caleb, are you smart?”
“Well, I like to think so.” I responded.
She seemed relieved. “Ok, good. So you know how God created everything right? Well if God created everything, then what created God?”
I stammered and stuttered something like, “Hmm. Umm. Th…that’s a really good question.”
She was underwhelmed to say the least. Religious implications aside, I was astonished by her curiosity and her ability to question the foundations of her own worldview. From that moment on, I never worried about being able to talk with third graders.
After eight months in the classroom, I’m a different person than when I arrived at City Year. It’s not just that I’m more comfortable working with kids, but, after being in the classroom, I’m more comfortable with the third grade aspects of my self. I can finally take joy in acting silly. Just yesterday I pretended to be an elephant climbing a ladder, a crying pre-Kindergarten student (replete with thumb-sucking), and a kangaroo in an earthquake (this was one of my best, I was told).
So if you’re ever in doubt as to whether you’re a corps member or not, just remember that you might be a corps member if: you can carry a conversation about abstruse theology with an eight year old, and if you can also find solace in acting and looking ridiculous. Above all, I think, you might be a corps member if you look at yourself and you realize that you’re just not quite as much of an adult as you thought you were—and, for me at least, that’s been a beautiful realization.