My anxious mind envisioned chaos.

When I first realized that I was going to be in the classroom with k-5th graders, I wasn’t sure I would remember how to talk to them. What was a k-5 vocabulary? At the time, 2 years ago, my kids were 20, 18 and 14 way beyond elementary school. I no longer had any frame of reference. On top of this concern, could I keep the interest and control 25-30 k-2nd graders or 25-30 3rd-5th graders? My anxious mind envisioned chaos. I took care to select a shirt that would not reveal the perspiration my deodorant struggled to hide.  It’s goofy, right. Grown man vs. a bunch of kids. But I wanted to create an environment that would engage the kids, get them active and place at least one new idea in their head.

Was I freaking out or being self-aware?

Initially called Charity Club, our objective was to introduce the kids to community and societal issues and the organizations addressing these issues in a way that they could absorb through talk and action. Soon after our first few clubs, we realized that the objective was more than that. We wanted to reinforce the social and emotional education that was happening in school and at home. Therefore, we changed the name to Inside Out Club and wove in underlying character skills education.

Over the last two years, I have been in a dialog with the kids and they are amazing.

We talk about homelessness and hunger and cognitive and physical differences and the emotion and perspectives they share is beyond what I expected. In their answers and their activities, and in our short time together they show self-awareness, kindness, acceptance and more human character. And still before each session, I wonder what the kids have in store for me today, but more importantly, how will I perform for them.

You see being an Inside Out Club facilitator has compelled me to assess my own character.

Am I being self-aware, kind, accepting, grateful, empathic, collaborative, curious and persevering? How can I stand here in this room talking to the kids about the importance of these traits if I am not working on them too? In these situations, I often think about the motto of the Zen Parenting Radio (ZPR) podcast, hosted by my friends Todd and Cathy Adams, “the best predictor of a child’s well being is a parent’s self understanding.” Where is my authenticity as a dad and a mentor if I am not doing my self-study and assessing and working on my character?

I highly recommend ZPR, a top 10 parenting podcast on ITunes, as one resource for answering these questions. Todd and Cathy are entertaining, intelligent and informative. And though Parenting is in the title and a subject of discussion, this show is all about self-awareness.

So, despite the occasional anxiety and sweaty armpits, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage your child during Inside Out Club and introduce these human concepts and skills in a different way. And working with your kids is a constant reminder that I have to take the time to work on my stuff too so I can be the best parent, spouse, friend, IOC facilitator and human being. How about you?

Written by:

Shaun Emerson

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