When I was contemplating “retiring” from the Montessori school in rural CT where I’d worked for twenty-five years, I knew I would still want to be involved in teaching, especially writing, and especially with middle school kids. I’d seen Dave Eggers’s TED Talk years before and had heard about 826NYC. I volunteered one summer at a STEM workshop in Brooklyn and liked the philosophy, its playfulness and whimsy, of the organization. I also knew that, as much as I love the country, I didn’t want to sit around in the woods for the rest of my life. When I read in the 826 volunteer newsletter about the new Writers’ Room opening this fall at PS7 and then managed to find a place to stay in the city three days a week, I knew my superheroes, Maria (Montessori) and Dave (Eggers), were looking out for me.
The most rewarding part of volunteering so far has been working one on one with individual kids at the personal statement weekend and in the Writers’ Room. If I have a superpower, it’s that I’m good at that. More challenging has been learning how best to teach the kids in East Harlem. No doubt they’re thinking, who is this old white lady? But I think it’s fun and interesting and I feel lucky to be learning so much. My best advice for new volunteers would be to be patient and to spend time observing and listening to the kids. Experienced teachers know that you always learn more than you teach.