As I explained in an earlier post (or 2 — I tend to repeat myself), I am here in Canterbury as the mentor to 10 students who come from either the community college at which I teach or the community college in a neighbouring city. I made a conscious decision before I left the states that I was not going to write about these students.
To write about them, even using aliases (I have to laugh at the image of these nice kids needing an alias), is to me an invasion of their privacy. I think of the offspring of celebrities like Bill Cosby or Raymond (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) who have served as fodder for their parent’s television shows, comedy routines, & books, and I wonder how they feel about incidences — often embarrassing ones — from their lives being made public. Let’s be honest. How many of us would be applauding wildly and shouting from the audience “That’s me he’s talking about” after their dad told a packed auditorium about our shopping trip for our first bra?
And so, I had decided my students would be off-limits other than for general comments like “the students and I had tea today with Queen Elizabeth and got along smashingly well!” However, something happened last night that has caused me to temporarily suspend that decision.
First, though, I must explain the “????? Ten” part of this post’s title. I’ve noticed in previous mentors’ blog posts that their groups came up with a group name; one group, for example, was “the fabulous five” (sorry, Paul, Ringo, et al). My group has not yet named themselves, and of course a nickname can’t be forced. So far now, I think of them as simply “my 10”.
Back to last night.
At our Wednesday dinner (we plan to have dinner together every Wednesday after class — I think I may have said that before as well) last week, one of the group mentioned that another young lady would be celebrating her birthday last night, and we decided to replace this week’s Wednesday dinner with a Thursday birthday dinner at a local pub, The Black Griffin.
This past Sunday, I considered sending a text or facebook message to everyone except the birthday girl, asking the other group members if they wanted me to pick up a card and/or a gift. But I didn’t. On Monday, I thought about it again, and then again on Tuesday. The teacher in me, the me who is used to directing the course of a class session and of a semester, was ready to step in and direct the course of the birthday dinner. The mom in me, the part of me that wants every occasion to be perfect and for everyone to have a nice time and feel loved & cared for, wanted to join forces with the teacher.
The mentor in me told the teacher and the mom to be not what is natural or comfortable for me, but what is best for the students. And that is, I believe, to stand back and let them experience this opportunity in its entirety within safe, reasonable parameters and to be there to support them as needed, to treat them as adults, and to respect that they are perfectly capable of handling this situation just as it needed to be handled.
And here is the result of the teacher and the mom listening to the mentor.
I arrived at the pub before the rest of the group. The students arrived in 2 groups, from the 2 general directions they live from the pub. The first was a group of 4 or 5, and one of them was carrying a large gift bag. Evidently, 2 of the girls bought the gift bag and a gift and others had also included something. A card and pen were produced so everyone could sign. Eventually, the rest of the 2nd group arrived, and conversation centered around the menu and ordering.
As we waited for the food to arrive, the conversation swirled around me and included me, and even as I took part in one conversation or another, I couldn’t help but be aware of how these 10 young adults who (except for one pair of friends) had never interacted with each other until less than 2 weeks ago are already a cohesive group. Camaraderie was apparent; they even have their own group “inside jokes”!
After our food arrived, it had been enjoyed, and the empty plates taken away, one of the young men began singing “Happy Birthday”, and the rest of us joined in, followed by a lifting of tea, water, and adult-beverage glasses in a salute to our birthday girl. Her face shone with delight, and when someone handed her the gift bag and card, she was visibly touched.
I was touched, too, as she opened her gifts. Two of the girls had obviously noticed that the birthday girl often sketches on a small notepad; they bought her a nice, thick sketch pad. Two or three of the other students bought chocolates because, as one girl proclaimed, “Every girl needs chocolate!” Also in the bag were a pair of super-soft gloves and a matching scarf — both coordinate beautifully with the recipient’s coat.
I left shortly thereafter; it was time for the “old lady” to exit the scene and let the students have time together without me. I walked down the dimly-lit high street with a very warm, contented heart. Left to their own devices, these young adults had done what came naturally to them. And it was exactly the right thing to do.
Perhaps I should call them the “Terrific Ten”, but that sounds so cliched to me. Besides, when the time is right — if it ever is — they will name themselves. And you know what? It will be exactly the right name!