Fist Bump Victory

It’s a busy time of year again. The kids are back at school. We are in a cooperative elementary program, which means that I am back to school too, volunteering in their classrooms each week. This beginning is made even busier by the fact that we are moving next month. It’s very exciting but also bittersweet as the kids will be changing schools. Knowing that we’re leaving makes me reflect on how far some of the kids in the class have come since I met them years ago. I remember walking into my daughter’s class and realizing right away that one boy in particular was quite a handful. Most days he was totally checked out of the lesson and tried everything he could to distract the kids around him. Adults approached him and he would find the quickest way to offend them or scare them off with little regard for the consequences. In other words, he was on my radar.

One thing I’ve learned working with kids is that the toughest ones to like are the ones who need positive attention the most and he was no exception. His mom told me that she and her husband had adopted him just a couple of years ago after he was in foster care. When he was 2 years old, his mother overdosed in her bed, leaving him in the house with her body for days until he was finally discovered. Can you imagine what that does to a child? For this boy, it meant being unable to adjust to change. His day was shot if there was a substitute, a field trip, an assembly, a fire drill, or anything else that broke the routine. His mother died right before Christmas so the holidays are painful for him. Once on a field trip to the arboretum he realized his mother had taken him there before she died and he couldn’t recover for the rest of the day. It’s a minor miracle that such a great family adopted him and that he functions so well so much of the time.

I think the co-op program is a perfect fit for him. It’s great that he has a parade of adults who interact with him and build him up. Week by week I work with him as I would any other student. I set expectations and follow through with consequences when necessary. I also look him in the eye and ask his thoughts and feelings about what we study. I choose him as my helper and offer him leadership opportunities. I play with him and we joke. Today I wandered the room and greeted each student. When I came to him, we gave each other a goofy look and he showed me the screen of his computer. He pointed to a tiny speck on a screensaver of a street in Paris at night, said “slug bug” and bumped his fist into my hand. It seems so small but what a gesture for him. It really filled me up all day. After years of effort and positive interactions, he focuses so much better now and wants to do well. It’s a beautiful thing to get to see.

The Best Of Us

I started a short-term full-time job at a local elementary school last week. It’s an IT position during the state SBA testing. I make sure all the Chromebooks the kids use for the testing work effectively. I fix glitches and inventory all of them each day. I’m fortunate that I’ve  got great friends and neighbors who help me out with my kids before and after school so I can swing it. It’s been fun adjusting to work again. Look! I still remember how to make a spreadsheet:

I know these babies inside and out:

When a student has a technical issue during the testing, I sneak in like a ninja and try to figure it out as quickly as possible. I’m in and out of all the third grade classes throughout the day and they know me as the Chromebook Mom or by my official title, Building Online Assesment Team. That’s right, I’m the BOAT. A “team” of one by the way.

Today when I was in between rooms, a little girl reached out and handed this to me:

I mean seriously. How sweet is this?!?! Kids, in general, are my favorite kind of humans but this kid blows me away. She is so thoughtful. She found out my name AND EVEN SPELLED IT CORRECTLY. Many adults can’t do that! It’s gestures like these that make me feel like the world, as crazy as it is right now, will be in great hands after we’re finished messing it up.

Little Engineers That Could

We’ve spent the last three weeks of 1st grade learning about materials engineering. We asked the kids to construct a wall to keep rabbits out of a garden. Their initial sketches were hilarious and included lasers, sentries, and rockets. After adjusting their expectations a bit, we discussed the Engineering Design Process, tested different materials for the best mortar (both strong and flexible) and the kids paired up and constructed their walls. Last week we tested the dry walls with a “wrecking ball” made from a bagged golf ball tied to the back of a chair. The kids had so much fun and surprisingly most of their walls held up pretty well. The best mortar ended up being 2 parts sand and one part clay. I wouldn’t have guessed it. Even I get to learn things!

Little Geologists

This is Chris. He and I co-teach science in 1st grade at my kids’ school. We are a part of a cooperative elementary in which parents lead lessons and teach the kids in addition to having a full-time classroom teacher. There are many benefits to cooperative learning. For one, it is a great way to ensure the kids are exposed to different subjects that there may not be time for in a regular classroom with just one educator.

Chris loves having his picture taken. Can you tell?

Chris loves having his picture taken. Can you tell?

We’ve been studying rocks and soil since the beginning of the year. When we started in October, it took Chris and I 20 minutes each lesson just to get the kids seated and listening in order to teach anything.

We’ve come a long way!

One of the best parts about teaching science is that it is always hands-on. Each week the kids have learned not only the dirt on dirt, but how to use scientific equipment to study it. Our little geologists are now quite the earth material experts. They team up well, listen and follow directions, know how to make good seating choices on their own, and understand the importance of contributing pertinent information and valuable observations. Not only that, they are awesome at identifying soil components like pebbles, gravel, silt, clay, and humus. They sort the soil like pros too! Today was the final lesson in the unit so we took the kids outside to apply their knowledge. It is always rewarding to see kids making learning connections.

Here is a glimpse into my school life:

The Surge

I am a fan of Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York photoblog. Stanton interviews and photographs regular every day people on the streets of NYC and posts their responses. Most often, the insights and wisdom that people share are deeply personal and rich. This week, he shared this young man’s photo and quote. It touched me:

IMG_4462

A couple days later, we got to meet Ms. Lopez:

IMG_4465

IMG_4464

Pretty incredible leader, right? As the week went on, we learned more about the kids of Mott Hall Bridges Academy and the daily challenges of trying to teach and learn in one of New York’s most violent neighborhoods. Then, an idea was born:

IMG_4466

Within a few days, Humans of New York has raised close to $450,000 for the school’s programs. It has been so well funded, in fact, that an annual trip to Harvard is now a permanent part of the curriculum. In addition, the school can now offer a summer program that affords it’s students a chance to leave their homes safely and continue learning during the time of year they would normally be locked inside and regressing. The generosity didn’t stop there, though. People sent Ms. Lopez flowers too:

IMG_4469

How incredible is that? It all started with a young boy and his love for his principal. In a world where politics and 24-hour news cycles make everything seem so overwhelmingly negative, it’s nice to see that huge change can come from something as simple as hope and faith in each other.

**Update**
This story grew bigger than anyone could’ve imagined. To date, the HONY campaign has raised more than one million dollars. Corporate sponsorships have now begun to roll in that will provide technology for not only Mott Hall but the schools in the surrounding communities. Oh, and this happened:

IMG_4839