I am grateful, again, to my co-teacher, Donald Cook, for giving me the opportunity to spend two weeks with his elementary kids in summer school this year. In the time that I was able to be with DJ, and especially with the fourth and fifth graders, I watched the students grow, even in the space in less than eight hours together.
The students began to come on the microphone, sharing their ideas and telling us why they thought their work was right. They asked to share their interests, advocating for various brain breaks and to share what they were playing on their computers. They reached out for help and reassurance, asking us if they were doing what they needed to do in order to “pass summer school.”
As the group began to grow after some phone calls to straighten out attendance, some of the girls really stepped up. They were on the microphone and on the camera, happily picking up their pens to try problems over and over again. From one, I heard that she had asked her mom for help before she shared her work, demonstrating investment in her work. With another one, I could hear Mom in the background talking her through the problem as we did in class. Younger siblings and an older sibling who had been one of my students came on and off the camera to smile and wave.
What could have felt like a punishment, dreaded summer school, felt like the best party on the block for 45 minutes a day. For me, in the midst of starting my mornings killing off brain cells, choosing to literally bring death into my brain, the balance of watching these children come to life and grow and grow into the math was a gift far beyond just volunteering for a few weeks at summer school.
I know many people think that I should rest and that I’m doing too much, but watching these children engage and smile and laugh is literally what gets me going every morning and never more so than then this time of all times in my life. I always said I wouldn’t be a teacher and I am grateful beyond words that things changed along my path and put me here. I can’t imagine any other job that would be meaningful enough to get me out of bed and the reality I am living in right now.
Again, my gratitude to DJ for letting me tag along for two weeks of summer school – this brought sunshine into some dark days and I appreciate it.