I’ve always said Dawit has taught our family more than we will ever teach him.
Dawit is a great kid.
His two main goals in life are to have fun and relate to other people. He went so long without doing a lot of either of those that he really places value on both.
When he was relinquished and moved to an orphanage where no one spoke the same language that he did, life got really hard. He felt alone and all he wanted to do was talk to someone. He wanted to make jokes and know why things were happening.
A lot of that still lingers today. He loves school because it is a great chance to hang out with 20 friends and have lunch and play at recess.
He loves playing sports because you get to act crazy and no one tells you to stop getting messy. It is through sports that I see his learning style.
You have to start with the idea that Dawit is a kid who does things. If you take him out to dig for worms before you go fishing, he will begin by enjoying picking up worms out of the dirt. But the entire time he is watching everything that is happening.
Before long, he is pushing you out of the way and trying to put his own foot on the shovel to turn the dirt over. He doesn’t ask about how or where to dig. He grabs the shovel and starts digging. He will do it his way until he crosses a line and gets corrected.
He doesn’t study and philosophize about things and then go to rehearse them.
He learns by doing. Usually with Dawit, he learns by doing it wrong and getting corrected.
This is his second year to play soccer. This year, he really seems to understand that his team needs to kick it in the other team’s goal and when he is goalie, he doesn’t want the ball to go in his goal.
Now we just need to explain to him why the teams wear different color uniforms. It is important to steal the ball from the other team, not your own. In fact, it would be ideal not to knock anyone down – especially not your own teammate who was heading to the goal.
I had a great conversation with him Saturday after his first game of the year.
There had been one specific part of his game that I thought I should address. He had seen one of his teammates dribbling the ball down the field. No one on the other team could stop him – but Dawit could.
Page 2 of 2 - He ran him down from behind, knocked him down, took the ball and kicked it over the baseline out of bounds.
Apparently, he thought the idea was to always get the ball from anyone who had it. So I explained that when guys wearing the same color shirt as he was had the ball, he was supposed to help them get the ball in the goal, not steal it from them. He wasn’t exactly sure how to help them. So we talked about how someone might pass the ball or how he could just run in front in case someone from the other team stole the ball.
After running around the living room for a few minutes showing me how he was going to put this great advice into action at his next game, Dawit said, “I will help my team! We will be the champions!”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him they don’t even keep score and that everyone will just get a participation trophy when the season ends. But if he stops tackling his own teammates, I suppose that will be a victory of sorts.
We have had Dawit for one third of his life now. I don’t know if we will ever know if he was born a kid who learns by watching and doing or if he developed that because it was the only option he had.
I can’t wait to see if that tendency changes as his language skills continue to improve or if he will still react that way in high school.
Dawit is a lot of things. Boring is not one of those things.
I don’t know how much more he has to teach me, but I hope we both keep learning from each other in our own ways.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org