Boston — You may have never heard of them, but growing number of primary and elementary schools have them: TListeners. The programs are as varied as the needs. A listener may be a visitor from a nearby retirement home, a man or woman who comes on a regular basis and is assigned certain pupils weekly.
Nevertheless, the older person's assignment is to be a listener.
He or she may be listening to a pupil read, or may just be available to hear a story, or to listen to a personal tale of joy or woe. Or the listener may be a graduate student, someone thinking of teaching as a career.
The assignment: to be a listener. And maybe not to know which pupils will be doing the talking or reading, but such a listener might be assigned to spend a specific amount of time with one class, being assigned speakers and readers by the regular classroom teacher.
We know about one "listening lady" who got the job by being persistent and because neither the principal nor any of the teachers wanted her help.
She came to live in a strange city, away from children and grandchildren in a retirement home, and before her first week was out she was bored and feeling useless and unwanted. From her window, she could see an elementary school playground a short walking distance away.
The first nice day, she walked over, made an appointment with the principal, and asked if there wasn't something she could volunteer to do.
He was crisp. Did she have a teaching certificate? Had she handled a class before? Had she traveled widely in South America and could she aid the social studies teacher?
She left discouraged, thinking she had nothing to offer such an academic atmosphere.
But next day she watched out her window as the playground filled for recess and noted some of the youngsters wandering off by themselves. She yearned to reach out to help them.
Suddenly she saw what she could do -- something for which she was eminently qualified. She returned to the school that afternoon and again made an appointment with the principal.
She told him she was a good listener, and that he had some children in his school who needed to be listened to.
He did indeed, and she's been at the school ever since --advance "to talk to the listening lady."
Most schools, of necessity, have to deal with children in groups, hardly ever as individuals. But a listener can fill the need for each of us to be and feel special -- a listener who isn't in charge of disciplining or grading us.
And, of course, think of the enrichment such a program will provide for those who volunteer to listen! Enriching young lives, their mature lives will be enriched -- a grand brotherhood.
Next week: More list eners