86: Preschool Peer Mentoring

86: Preschool Peer Mentoring

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

Preschool Peer Mentoring

Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.

~Julie Andrews

I heard my name being called and turned just as the young boy crashed into me. With a big bear hug and a smiling face, he said once more, “Whhhhhhhen-D!”

“Michael, how are you?”

Before he could answer, another voice spoke. “Michael, why are you in the hallway?”

Then she turned to me. “May I help you?”

I introduced myself. I was from the childcare center down the street and had an appointment with the kindergarten teacher. Michael had been in my preschool and then Junior Kindergarten three years ago.

She visibly relaxed. I was about to say goodbye when she asked, “Do you have time to visit our classroom?” I accepted the invitation.

The second grade children were busy at various tables. “In the afternoon, they do group work.”

“Whhhhhen-d, look, look!” Michael grabbed my hand and pulled me over to his group’s table.

I spent a few minutes with him, viewed all of the students’ projects, shared one last bear hug, and then thanked his teacher before leaving. I couldn’t help but smile — he’d come such a long way.

Before Michael came to us, his assigned specialist advised us that Michael’s long-term prognosis was still uncertain. Michael was six months old when an accident had occurred. The resulting injuries caused significant brain damage.

There were delays in all areas of development, but the most significant one was that he could not walk. He scooted around by crawling. The specialist felt that although there was no certainty of success, Michael should aim to stand independently and then move on to walking. She also specified that he should wear a white helmet during the days to protect him from any further head injury.

By the end of his first year with us, Michael showed improvement in all developmental areas, the most dramatic one being able to walk independently. He had an uneven gait, but it was improving.

The following spring, it was suggested that we encourage him to pedal a tricycle. This would strengthen his legs and help him with his walking. Initially, Michael resisted our attempts to encourage him to use the pedals on the tricycle. He preferred to use his feet to propel himself forward. By mid-June, though, he started to use the tricycle pedals.

Unfortunately, one of the other children crashed into Michael. His tricycle tipped over, and although he was not hurt, he refused to go near the tricycle after that. Michael became interested in something else.

The playground slide had steps that led up to a twelve-foot walkway and then to the slide itself. Michael wanted to make it up those steps. Each day, he returned to the steps to practice. Then one day, it happened. First step, second step, third, fourth, and up he went. The girl who had been in front of him and was now at the top of the steps looked back at him and said, “Come on, it’s easy!” There were claps and cheers when he made it to the top.

Then, as Michael faltered and considered whether he should try the slide as well, the little girl said, “Here, let me go first. I’ll sit down, and you sit behind me. That’s what we do with my little brother.”

She sat down, spread her legs so they each touched the inside edge of the slide, and held onto the slide’s edge. With Michael sitting behind her, they went very slowly down the slide. When they reached the bottom, Michael turned around with the biggest smile that could ever be on a child’s face, looked at me, and said, “WHHHHHHHEN-D, I did it!”

Although this story is about Michael, it is also about that little girl named Shelby. Michael’s determination to succeed did propel him forward on that day, but it also happened because Shelby recognized his hesitation, encouraged him, and competently used her own past experience to support him as he successfully achieved his goal. She had stepped into the role of mentor and, in doing so, reminded me that we are all teachers — and we are all learners.

~Wendy Poole

More stories from our partners