Monday, October 17, 2011

Ali Hardiman

Kimmie “The Goofball” Shaw and I miraculously managed to squeeze our way out of the jam packed, short, yellow, school bus while holding hands and laughing our tails off the entire time. A hop, skip and a jump later, the other campers walked or wheeled their way to the Northbrook Court Mall entrance doors as well. “Now campers, quickly locate your mall superior otherwise known as your counselor for the day,” boomed my boss. Kimmie made a funny face in my direction, which I reciprocated with a two thumbs up. She had chosen me to be her bus buddy, friend and “Goofball Sidekick” for the day. Friend or superior, I knew I was honored to spend the day alone with “The Goofball” roaming the mall in search of a Hannah Montana backpack. I just did not know that Kimmie had a present for me as well.

Two hours into our shopping spree and a much-needed massage later, I was giving Kimmie a piggyback ride on our way to Claire’s, a very cookie-cutter, pink bubblegum, and girly teenage store. In other words, Kimmie’s idea of Heaven. An hour flew by and Kimmie was still gawking at the amount of hot pink items in the store. “Ali, look!” I turned around only to find Kimmie in complete Claire’s attire: one large feathery pink boa, a glistening sugar plum fairy tiara, and hot pink plastic high heels with a fake rhinestone on top to match. Did I forget to mention she found the Hannah Montana backpack that we had been on a wild-goose chase for? The hesitant and forced “You look….nice” compliment from me to her was followed by a big and thunderous laugh! “Now, your turn,” she casually insisted. Needless to say, I had lost my appetite to play "dress up” since I was Kimmie’s age and not too fond of the idea of window shoppers walking by seeing me impersonating Hannah Montana in size four, kid's plastic high heels. Yet, I knew it was a defining moment for Kimmie to see me other than an authority figure so I laced up some strappy high heels and put on a Hannah Montana wig. I guess you can say I surprised myself when I dressed to impress only Kimmie. Another big laugh. That one was for Kimmie. As we stood side by side in front of the mirror, our reflections resonated Hannah Montana: a complete success for Kimmie and a hard-to-swallow moment and new experience for me. “You look pretty, Ali,” she attempted to assure me. “Thanks Kimmie. You know, you’re not looking too bad yourself.” We laughed until our stomachs hurt and so did the other customers. My nightmare of people viewing me as the next teenybopper musician had become a reality in Claire’s that day. Even after we took off our disguises, Kimmie continued to look at me with one eye on me and her other eye still wandering as if I had just landed on the moon, still awe struck. I looked back and smiled. I started to walk out the door as Kimmie hooked onto my arm; she being my only accessory this time around.

By playing “dress up,” I showed Kimmie that I too have a childish side that she could relate to on a positive level. She saw me not only as an authority figure but also as someone who inspired her through an impersonation of one of her idols. Getting to know your students on a more personal level makes it easier to teach them if you know what makes them tick. In reference to my story, I spent time with Kimmie that day and got to know her as a person and not just as a student, which made our relationship grow and our trust build. Developing personal relationships with students is crucial to my self-satisfaction as a teacher and it also happens to be my passion, my art.

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