Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ponder Creek Estates

This weekend was filled with history-making events. First, over 60,000 people in the Louisville area are still without power due to Hurricane Ike's arrival last Sunday. I do not know of another city, so far inland, that has been affected by a hurricane as intensely as we here in Louisville. Also, my son, Kevin, tested for his red belt in taekwondo yesterday afternoon. This is a huge step as it positions him to compete with the advanced groupings in tournaments. More importantly, for his parents, his leadership skills will be highlighted as advanced belts are expected to help lower belts through the program. Taekwondo has been a way of life for my family for many years and we all appreciate its structure and discipline. Finally, this weekend was the first time I ventured out as a "professional" genealogist. Ponder Creek Estates, a beautiful retirement community in Louisville, was willing to compensate me to teach a five-session course on genealogy. With this jump in expectations, I was nervous.

My nerves showed in mostly unnoticeable ways. But I knew they were there. I felt them in my thoughts and actions as the day of the first class approached. I was overly prepared, as usual. I had spent weeks on this lesson plan ensuring to include time for questions and general conversations. In fact, the lesson was intended to spark the memories that lead to sharing life stories and a desire to preserve these stories for interested younger generations. I knew older folks appreciated time to tell their stories and someone to listen. This was the goal, and it worked far better than I had anticipated.

However, the success I experienced yesterday teaching the first of five classes at Ponder Creek Estates had more to do with an energetic, handsome and helpful young man than my lesson plan or teaching style. And while my teaching ego took a blow for a minute after this realization, the pride I feel for my son upon reflection is so much more satisfying than executing the most effective lesson plan.

When creating a lesson plan for my Algebra 1 class or a presentation for the Board of Trustees, I try to visualize every minute of the class. I always want to have some sort of balance of how much I teach and giving students time and opportunity to learn. These are two very different things. I concede-it’s a control issue. I have no problem allowing students to dictate their learning and rejoice when a student becomes enlightened. That time is intentional and built into my plan for every lesson.

Yesterday was not my Algebra 1 class, though. Nor was it the Board of Trustees. Yesterday’s class was a lovely group of residents at Ponder Creek Estates who signed up to learn more about genealogy research. These people didn’t know me at all, and I was nervous about that. I didn’t have the automatic respect a teacher typically collects after 16 years in the classroom. I couldn’t even fall back on my day-to-day title, Head of Middle School-a title that usually injects a bit of fear into most people I meet. Therefore, I had little control.
Instead, my new class of students only knew my name is Keira and that I was coming to talk to them about genealogy research. They didn’t know about my other degrees, titles, or accolades I have earned over the years. In fact, I’m not so sure they were impressed with anything until my secret weapon strolled into the room. When Kevin, my middle son who is almost 11, entered the room, heads turned, eyes lit up, and smiles broadened. Automatically, I relaxed too.

Kevin has previously shown interest in my genealogy escapades and has even volunteered to travel with me to libraries and courthouses to do research. He runs a mean microfilm reader. I decided to ask him to join me at Ponder Creek Estates yesterday for several reasons. First, I want to support his interest in genealogy research. Neither of his brothers have that same glimmer in their eyes. Second, Kevin is a great technical support for the computer, projector and screen that I brought to supplement my program. Most importantly, though, I felt the presence of my child would solidify a respect for me from the people in the audience. Genealogy is, after all, about families.

Kevin was the focus of several memorable moments during my hour-long presentation. As we entered the room for the first time about 15 minutes before the program was to begin, he immediately joined a woman putting together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Kevin tended to the technical equipment like a professional producer, he collected the questionnaires to be copied, and respectfully “yes ma’m” and “yes sir’d” each and every one of the twelve members of the group. At the end of the class Kevin had me expertly packed up and ready to go without prompting. The twelve pair of eyes noticed his every move and the compliments flowed freely.

Kevin took a picture of me while teaching the class to help preserve the moment in my life. However, I feel it is more appropriate here to attach a recent picture of Kevin. He is the one who made this day special.

Two days ago I was nervous about tackling my first professional genealogy teaching job. My 16 years of teaching, however, certainly gave me the confidence to prepare well and practice often. I believe it would have been a successful class left at that. Now I am excited to begin working on the projects that this class has provided me. With basic information gained through a short initial questionnaire, I will be able to help the residents of Ponder Creek Estates fill in the missing pieces of their family trees. I look forward to my next class in mid-October.

But it truly was the last minute decision to bring Kevin that made the experience memorable for me and for the students. This 10 year old brought many of my lessons to life. Namely, we must share what is most important of ourselves with interested younger generations to preserve our life experiences, values, wisdom and life lessons. Kevin made history today, and I am so happy and proud to preserve this moment for him.

No comments: