By Julia Byerly
Are you at least 55 years old? Do you enjoy working with children? Could you use some extra tax-free money? If you are not currently employed and looking for a way to give back to your community, then Foster Grandparents may be the program for you!
The Children of Promise/Foster Grandparent Program is seeking to fill 25 positions in Linn, Johnson and Jones counties. They must filled by the end of March or our area may lose them permanently. When at-risk children need so much extra help in area schools and day cares, it would be a shame to lose this worthwhile service. Results show that we are making a significant difference.
The program is about giving back to the community, the children and yourself, too. I’m a foster grandparent. I spend five hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday helping children read and write more fluently, correcting papers, and sharing stories about myself to show kids I understand what they are going through. By being a substitute grandmother, teacher, and friend, I can encourage them to love learning as I do. Every day is different.
I’m an artist, writer, amateur astronomer and former teacher. Sharing life experiences can help kids put their lives into perspective. We talk about the future and what they might like to do, what they will have to know to accomplish their goals. And I make it fun. Since I’m not in charge of discipline, I have the advantage of not having to be the bad guy. Kids love to share their stories, too.
Not every child learns the same way or at the same rate, so you may have to try different ways to get their attention and keep it. You get to know each child you work with more closely than a regular teacher. We older folks can work with students in small groups and one on one, giving them the extra attention they need, whether they’re slow learners or gifted and needing a challenge.
Classroom teachers have to keep the bean counters happy, so they do a lot of testing. (I help with that). They have to teach 20-28 kids in their classroom and many need individual help learning (I help with that). They handle a full class of students from morning until late afternoon five days a week with few breaks. (Thank goodness I don’t have to do that.) Teachers are so grateful for everything you do, they treat you like a queen.
The new friends you make are like family. We all have the same goal in mind: Give kids the best chance they have at the future. And every little bit counts.
Kids wave at me in the hall and call, “Hi, Grandma J.J.” with a smile. They hug me. They make cards for me when I’m sick and share treats with me. One thing about schools, you’ll never starve. Teachers are always bringing food.
The foster grandparents program pays for your meal every day you’re there, (you get reimbursed for sack lunches), and the treats are very welcome after you’ve walked up and down the halls a few times. You’ll also receive mileage and a stipend to help with expenses.
If you need a reason to get up in the morning and fill your time with something that is infinitely rewarding, give foster grandparents a call. I’m just starting my fifth year and wondering where the time went.
Julia Byerly of Cedar Rapids
is a foster grandparent.