“I understand other kids (sometimes)”

Every Wednesday afternoon, since the beginning of the year, we opened up Jin’s doors and invited kids ages 10 and up to come and join our after-school program. Some kids brought their homework if we had it, but most just came to learn, signing their names in our little notebook and dropping the 5 baht fee into the piggy bank (we used the money to buy snacks for them on our outings to the pool, train park, and movie theater). Inspired by Dave Egger’s creative program for young writers, Michelle decided to open each afternoon with a writing prompt, and FORCED all the kids toparticipate! At first we were met with groans and protests, but these prompts turned outsome really delightful and sometimes profound expressions.

One Wednesday, Michelle had us number our page from 1-20. Beside each number,we had to write “I…” and come up with a statement about ourselves. Mine was pretty simple; “I am from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. I have a younger brother. I like to run…. “ When 10 year old Wu read his statements, I was startled by his own self-reflections. His statements were insightful and kind of heart-breaking, and really well-put:
* I love honesty.

* I hate it when people make fun of girls.

* I don’t fit in with my mom and dad.

* I understand other kids (sometimes).

* I am charming!

After everyone reads their prompts out loud, the kids reflect back what they like about each other’s pieces and what makes them curious/what they want to hear more of. It’s been amazing how no one has been cruel in these feedback times.
For the rest of the afternoon, one of us will have prepared a short lesson for the kidswho don’t have homework with them. We’ve covered volcanoes, Thai classical poetry,the solar system, how eyesight works, refugees and migration, rights for people withdisabilities in Thailand… The kids’ favorite is when we have math competitions.Another big hit is a globe that I bought at a mall kiosk— and really, who doesn’t love a globe?

In the last few weeks, some of the teenagers have been talking and dreaming about opening a library here in our community. As it becomes more and more of a possibility,the kids excitement to learn is striking. We’re lucky to be a part of it all!

– Lexie K.

Learning from Sansei Jin