While spending afternoons with EYES, Educating Youth Ensures Success, the tutors almost always know what to expect. We arrive. We ensure that the students sit down and eat their snack. We go over their grades and assignments. We help them with reading for 30 minutes. We play outside with them. We leave. However, the interactions within our 2 hour time span are far more intriguing and complex compared to the sound of this short description. Often there is talk of how the students are related to one another, a result of multiple broken marriages or current relationships. Furthermore, complications are communicated concerning which family member or friend will pick up a student, an outcome of the parent(s) juggling multiple jobs in addition to the sheer fact that the parent could be absent from the student’s life. These conversations serve as constant reminders of why working with EYES has been an especially provocative experience.
On the other hand, it can be so easy to forget a whole separate breed of pertinent struggles faced by these students, specifically speaking of the harsh social dynamics that often plague what is commonly known as, “the awkward years.” Despite this fact, this past Thursday I was reminded of the daily realities faced by the average middle schooler. A brief conversation occurred while driving a car load of students down the mountain following dinner at the Cross and watching the first half of a women’s soccer game. Ciara, who is a 7th grader at South Pittsburg junior high, said to me, “This one girl on my cheerleading squad has been talking mean about me to all of the other girls at school.” “Well why is that?” I asked in response. She replied, “She doesn’t like any of the cheers that I came up with.” Ciara is generally a very upbeat girl. Thankfully, it was clear that she was not allowing this petty scenario change her way of heart, at least not on the surface.
This conversation struck me because it reflects upon the fact that we as tutors are responsible for so much more than putting out snacks and checking over subtraction homework. We are also responsible for mending and expanding the moral fabric of these individuals in the most positive of fashions. While this concept seems basic, it has seriously impacted the way that I view time spent with our students. These children have nearly every obstacle in the book standing in their way. How am I supposed to relate to them on a level that will facilitate enough mutual trust so that they will wholeheartedly believe that it can get better? I told Ciara to not pay this girl any mind, “she is just jealous of you, I promise.” But is that really enough?