During the summer, IMSA offers camps for younger kids (grades 3-9) that are led mostly by current IMSA students from the ALLIES program. As someone who taught two weeks of these camps, I realized the content wasn’t what I was learning. I was learning how it felt to be a kid again. With the chaotic breaks between classes, I talked to the kids… and wow did they bring me back. Through rounds of card games and picking lab partners, they reminded me how different it is to be 10.
Deegan: “Are you afraid of embarrassing yourself?”
Deegan… Deegan was a rollercoaster. From going around Sodexo in order to show off his peanut butter breath (PBB as he called it) to trying to make water balloons in class, I never knew what to expect from him. He truly was energetic. However, strangely enough, he didn’t talk to the other kids. As I was talking to him, he asked me what Fortnite dances I knew. Not being cultured, I said none. In utter shock, he started to teach me some, but I couldn’t get myself to try. He asked why, and then said “Are you afraid of embarrassing yourself?” and then, “Because you shouldn’t be, it’s fun.”
Deegan showed me that you should shamelessly have whatever harmless fun you want, with or without people. Read whatever, dance however, and just forget about being judged.
Sophie: “Of course I have confidence.”
Sophie was one of the students lined up in front and had a lot to add. Without prompting, she told me exactly what she did and didn’t like about each class and her confidence made me smile. Conversations with her ranged from Hogwarts Houses to the sale on her new favorite shoes. She also chatted animatedly about all the other things she was doing this summer and her hard work.
She reminded me that while confidence can be mistaken for cocky, that shouldn’t stop you from being proud of yourself because that just pushes you to do your best.
Shomak was quite different than the other two mentioned. We had a pretty limited amount of conversation, but he still had a lot to teach me. He was a wanderer. He found it incredibly hard to stand in line, and I would always find him walking off somewhere the kids weren’t supposed to be. Once I stopped trying to get him to cooperate, I realized something: he’s just curious. When he was walking around, he would read the posters around IMSA or observe something he didn’t understand. He wouldn’t raise his hand, but often he would say the answer aloud. He didn’t really obey the standard behavior the other kids did; yet, he still was doing really well.
Be creative because there is more than one way to do things. Whether that means taking notes or thinking aloud, do it your way.
Taran: “I am a loser.”
This one is a little different. While Taran didn’t give me any direct advice, he still inspired me. Time after time, Taran told either me or Hamza that he was a “loser” and that he “liked to be bullied”. Oddly enough, these comments led others to love him. Kids were always inclusive no matter what; even if you were weird, you could sit and hang with anyone. Taran’s lack of self-awareness was what made others find him funny. He gained back his confidence by becoming someone others could laugh with rather than at, what he previously anticipated. It was so uplifting to see him feel comfortable.
So no, you are not a loser.
I realized, yes, I am nostalgic for recess and all the other perks of being 10, but I don’t miss the constant struggle in confidence. Back in 5th grade, all the kids have such a different take on themselves. Whether you think you are the king of the world or the bottom of the barrell, it’s all to such a high degree. Now, as we are older, it’s a lot easier to talk about self-image. Whether it be a counselor, friend, parent, Uber driver, let someone in. However, as a tween, kids usually just go with the flow. Their strength and willingness to adventure is super impressive. So, let these 5th graders inspire you because I know I feel empowered after thinking about Deegan’s pride in his peanut butter breath (PBB).