The kids of Nowa Huta’s Schola 100 seemed years beyond their age, at least, coming from what I was used to.
Each made an effort to carry their teachers’ burdens. During meal time, they take the initiative to clear the table and wash the dishes and even forbade me to help them (!!). The older kids, with a strong sense of responsibility, lead the younger ones during activities. They were remarkably independent.
Adults seldom caution them–they’re allowed to handle sharp objects, free to stretch and tumble and bend and balance, leaving them to learn from mistakes on their own. (This will have great repercussions in adulthood, in the way they will handle failure and rejection.) When the kids speak, dance, sing, act, and play, there is no tinge of timidity or restraint to act ‘proper’, largely because they are free to express, free to discover on their own. (They will carry on their views with conviction, and that is always better than ‘riding the current’ of collective thought.)
I was warmly welcomed on my first day, not one second did I feel alienated. They even taught me how to count in Polish, and asked me to recite day by day until I got it right. My brief lectures were always accompanied by an attentive and energetic audience. Changes in schedule do not cause them any stress, they simply go along. They were very open-minded and receptive to change.
The children have an impressive amount of emotional and social awareness. None of them were sore when scolded and argued with. Each one was entitled to his/her own opinion, as they speak their minds openly and banter confidently. Their ideas were challenged–not rejected or ridiculed–by adults.
I came in with the task of having to teach these children (I volunteered for AIESEC International to teach about Philippine culture). What transpired was the complete opposite. For that, I am grateful!