I once worked a summer as an assistant teacher at Sycamore Run Early Childhood Center, and Max and Grace both came with me regularly. I had never worked with children and I held no relevant training or experience, but (to my surprise) I found a natural talent for working with children. My childlike enthusiasm easily matched theirs, and I felt that I learned as much from them as they learned from me. It was obvious that Max and Grace always enjoyed being around the kids – so much excitement and enthusiasm! The dogs would become important characters in the imagined games and day-to-day playground drama, immersed in the childrens’ lives for a few hours a day. I know that I have missed working there, and every time we pass a child in the street I see our dogs perk up and I know they miss it, too.
Today, we packed the dogs in the car and drove across the flooded Ohio River to South Central Elementary School in Elizabeth, IN for our initial meeting about bringing Tail Waggin’ Tutors to their students. They requested volunteers over four years ago, but there have not been active TDI volunteers in the area to meet the demand. Now that we are certified, we want to do everything we can to help. The school is located in a beautiful rural area, and it is a bit of a drive for us; but we want to visit as often as we can afford.
We met with the principal and Laura, our contact who initially requested a TDI program. She took us on a tour of the school, and we got to see a cross-section of how the school feels during a regular day. I spent all of my childhood and most of my adulthood going to school every day, and the familiarity of the academic routine is intoxicating. I miss that structure, the constant input of new information! There is a certain unfiltered energy that one can only find around the intuitive minds of children. While I look forward to enriching their learning experience through pet tutoring, I also know that I will gain valuable experience and inspiration from working with young minds. Walking through the halls, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the artwork hanging between classrooms. I personally struggle with my own artistic endeavors, caught in the trap of analyzing and criticizing my work before I have even made a mark on paper – undermining my own art, and often never feeling confident enough to make it. But there is no fear of failure in the drawings of a child. They draw what they feel like drawing, and they do not waste energy fretting over form and symbolic content or the socio-political context of their work. Their work comes from within, from their own unfiltered experience. They make the unique world that they live every day a reality – in pencil and crayon and construction paper – and they do it with gusto.
Our visit went very well, and the energy of the school was great. Everywhere we went, we were met with excitement and positivity. It is obvious that the children are more than ready to have some canines in their curriculum. The only downside is that the school year is nearly over, so we only have time to do a few visits before they let out for the summer. At least we can lay the groundwork for when we come back in the fall and really lock into a schedule. In the meantime, we have many more facilities to contact about Pet Therapy. I wonder if the Louisville Public Library would want to host a Tail Waggin’ Tutors day…