As I said “Arrivederci” to my Take Ten class of third graders last December
before embarking on my semester abroad in Rome, Italy, with wide-eyed wonder
they questioned me about Italy. One student sitting in the back of the classroom shot
out of his seat and emphasized each word with passionate hand gestures as he told
me, “You have to go to Pisa!” He excitedly chattered on about the Leaning Tower of
Pisa as the rest of the class pointed out facts they had heard about Italy. While the
students chitchatted about the sites and bits of history they knew, one student in the
front of the classroom sat quietly, with a bewildered expression. He looked up at me
with a skeptical expression and asked, “They have a Leaning Tower of Pizza?”
I will always remember this moment from my Take Ten experience for a
couple reasons. This moment captured the adorably inquisitive nature of children.
These students want to learn and do not hesitate to speak their minds. After each
session, I always leave the classroom with a smile on my face, feeling refreshed and
touched by my interaction with them.
At the same time, this moment demonstrated the root of miscommunication.
While the student in the back of the room said “Pisa”, the student in the front of the
room heard “pizza”. In situations like this, the misunderstanding is merely comical.
However, as Take Ten teaches, in more serious situations, miscommunication
can lead to conflict. Therefore, the program stresses the importance of clarity
and understanding. Being aware of what and how one says something and
thinking about how another might perceive this illustrates the keys to effective
communication. This communication needs both awareness of oneself and
knowledge of another’s perspective. In order to reach this understanding and
communicate clearly with one another, we can all take a lesson from the student in
the front of the room. Rather than simply accepting this statement, even though it
did not seem correct to him, this student spoke up and asked for clarification. He
used his communication skills to come to a better understanding of the truth. Now,
he knows that the Italians eat their pizza, rather than utilize it as a building material.
Visiting with these young students each week as a Take Ten volunteer
has become an invaluable part of my own experience as a student at Saint Mary’s
College. Not only does my involvement serve to educate and empower these
students, in return, they inspire and motivate me to reach higher and achieve
greater. Learning about the issues, big or small, that these students face in their
daily lives and witnessing each of their unique (and amusing) personalities
encourages me to grow and become the best version of myself. It demonstrates the
importance and blessing of community. It reveals that we each have a responsibility
to care for and uphold the community that we live in.