July 2023 TeamMates of the Month: Like a Story Unfolding
When Christine met her 6th-grade mentee Sara in November of 2020, they had to use their imaginations; both their faces were covered by masks. It would be more than a year before what Sara called their “face reveal”.
“I think both of us were like, ‘that’s not what I thought you were going to look like!’” says Christine. They are used to seeing each other’s faces now. Used to their ever-ready smiles.
Before they met, Sara thought TeamMates was “just like having another teacher or meeting up with another teacher. That’s not the way they explained it to me,” she says, “but that’s kind of what I could imagine. Our relationship is completely different from that. It’s just like having another friend.”
With an almost 50-year age difference, Christine says, “I think the biggest thing that has surprised me and continues to surprise me, is that we have so many things in common.”
Sara quickly replies, “Same! I was just about to say that. We just kept talking and talking and we’d say, ‘Me too! We talk about things and they just click.’” Walking side by side around the school when the weather was nice made a great way to get to know each other.
“Sara is game to try anything, to talk about anything” says Christine. “She can see there’s more than one way to look at something. I’m still learning things from her!” Early on, she learned about manga, the Japanese graphic novels that Sara was drawn to because the characters, “face a lot of difficult struggles but they always, in the end, get through it.” Since Christine is a writer, they picked out a graphic novel to read together starring a strong character who liked to draw.
They’ve explored lots of interests including service projects, jigsaw puzzles, miniature seashells that Christine inherited from her grandfather. Sometimes they play word games like Wordle or Mad Libs, good vocabulary builders for Sara, since English is her second language.
Sara says that Christine, “always sees the good in stuff, is always very positive and that’s a quality that a lot of people need.” Maybe that is why the two of them saw the potential in the 2.5 foot stalk of a plant Sara named “Bachy” short for dieffenbachia (the Latin name for a common house plant). They wanted to rescue it. “Bachy was just one limp leaf,” Sara says, “in a big vase with dry, dry soil. Now it’s a really big plant!”
They both garden. Their tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and watermelon are “friends” to be cared for and tended.
They are clear what they gain from their friendship. “I think when I’m with you,” Sara says, “I learn stuff I will carry on for the rest of my life.”
Christine credits Sara for “getting her out of her personal bubble so that whatever is happening in my life, including the morning I got the call from the doctor’s office about my cancer diagnosis. There was one thing I was certain of, ‘it’s my morning to meet with Sara and I’m going.’ It wasn’t to comfort myself, it was more like, this is part of life too.”
They started a list last summer of all the things they plan to do and see together after Sara graduates from high school. They’ll keep filling it, because Sara says, they will “definitely” be friends after graduation. Or as Christine puts it, “Sara is like a story that I feel I am now part of and I want to read the next chapter!”