Today, archaeology taught me a valuable lesson about education. An activity designed to teach about the making of mortar grew into a tutorial of companionship.

I met Yosef through a typical icebreaker activity in the Akko conservation center. After he arrived late, I learned his name (already on his nametag), that he lived in Akko, and that he didn’t like any particular thing about the city. I watched, admittedly in jealousy, as he proceeded to doze off during the short tour of the center. Later I learned that we were in a group tasked with creating and utilizing mortar to create any structure we had an interest in. In my mind, signing up for a class about Conservation & Outreach was an amazing way to combine an opportunity geared towards history with my career hopes in education. I slowly saw these dreams drift away as Yosef continually avoided conversation by calling for his bilingual friend to translate. D’aundra, my partner, and I thought the cause was lost.

After a short break to find the missing Yosef, I stumbled upon him on the outside patio. Wielding masonry tools, goggles, a yellow hard-hat and determination, he was slowly chipping away at a stone cube. I pulled up a nearby chair and simply watched as he lightly hammered a meticulous line around every side’s outer edge. With a true swing, he chipped away a large corner of the rock as the instructor entered the patio. Curious faces trading quick phrases ended in Yosef saying to me, “5 minutes inside”. As I followed the instructor in, my suspicions were confirmed that Yosef had queried about how to mine a flat slate instead of just hacking off chunks. He had spent his break finding the necessary supplies to try to give us a base for our sculpture.

As he turned a plastic glove filled with mortar into a tool mimicking those used for icing, I learned that he volunteered as an EMT assistant. The previous night he had worked the overnight shift. While making jokes about eating the mortar, I watched him create a small flower pot that he wanted to give to the instructor. After purposefully stepping back to watch Yosef do his thing, I saw a mind flourish with inventiveness, humor, and kindness. My inner educator went from disappointment in Yosef to disappointment in myself. I doubted a child before I even spoke a word to him and ended up with a beautiful flower pot created by a mind much more virile than my own.