When the Student Becomes the Teacher

Getting any new program off the ground is a nail-biting endeavor. TrackTales evolved last year from an idea generated at a monthly Library Committee meeting. As school began this year, planning for the Library’s multilingual, multicultural evening story times with volunteer storytellers was well underway and preregistrations for the first event steadily filled my Inbox, topping thirty students. I was pleased with the anticipated turnout but worried that it could be overwhelming for the first storyteller, a current 6th grader and 2009 TIS graduate Jared.

Jared showed up on time, books in hand, and prepared for an evening of Mandarin storytelling. We made our way to the childcare room to round up Jared’s listeners—all 30 of them ranging from 3-10 years old. There is no denying it was a noisy, chaotic start. Jared, parent Jim Braun and Principal Maria Abad helped shepherd the kids to the story area. As Jared began, Maria and I hovered over the group so Jared could concentrate on reading.

ITKTIS-Tracktales-200909-00He had chosen a story about bath time which quickly caught the interest of the attendees. Laughter soon erupted as all discovered the main character’s name was PiPi—you can guess the pronunciation. At about this time, the transformation took place. Maria had left to attend the PTO meeting and Jim and I had begun to set up for the craft the kids would do later on the other side of the room. I heard Jared read a sentence in Mandarin, translate it freely into English and then ask the kids their prior knowledge of the vocabulary. Hands flew up, answers were blurted out or guesses proffered. Jared hit a rhythm and soon had the kids mesmerized with his pattern of reading, translating and inquiring. The kids were repeating Mandarin words and then offering translations in Spanish, Japanese and even German all while enjoying the antics of PiPi during bath time.

I needn’t have worried at all. Without a doubt, Jared is a born teacher with a solid foundation built by his parents and teachers at TIS. I was very proud of him. Jared, thank you for leading a great TrackTales and for the new storytelling ideas!

Tamara Fornell