By Miko Crosby, AmeriCorps member serving on the Gossler Park Elementary School Team.
We’re all settling down after recess. The hands on the clock hit 12:35 p.m. and four students stand up, each armed with a sharp pencil. By now, they know who the line leader is for each day, but they ask me who just to be sure. “Who do you think it is?” I ask them. A student steps to the front, giving me a mischievous smile, and we all fall dutifully into line behind her. My arms are full, loaded with my planning binder, clipboard, and pencil case. We walk through the hall neatly and quietly and enter the library, where our group is held.
As we hoist ourselves up onto the tall seats, one of the students is already bouncing up and down.
“Miko, it’s time to read the rules! It’s my turn!” I smile as I pull the contract we all made and signed at the beginning of the year out of my binder.
“Wait! Can I try to do it without looking today?” I agree and he begins.
“Be polite, courteous, and respectful at all times. Listen quietly while others are speaking or reading. Try your best. Be respectful of other groups.” Down the list they go, wrapping up with our school motto: “Don’t forget to be awesome!” We begin to transition to our work, leaving the contract in the middle of the table for reference at any point.
“Who can give me a reminder what we did last group?” I ask, calling on an enthusiastic student.
“We learned about characters!”
“What about characters?” I prompt.
“Describing characters!” another student replies.
After our review, I call for all pencils in the middle, as I do every session to minimize distraction. As I retrieve the whiteboard marker and turn to the board, all four of them turn towards me and start talking over one another, excited and guessing what we are doing. I use our countdown for quiet.
“Refocus in 3...2...1… Nice work, thank you.”
They're each quiet and watching, one or two with a hand in the air showing two fingers for the second rule - listen quietly while others are speaking - and I explain what we are doing.
“I want you to tell me some spooky characters.” I allow callouts and soon we have a list of nearly fifty. I ask for each student to pick one character from the board and when I ask who wants to go first, hands spring into the air, everyone charged and ready. “I am thinking of a number between 23 and 45.” The closest guesser goes first and chooses the direction around the table.
After we all have characters, I tell them that we will be describing our characters on the board. Since our characters are fictional, we can make them whatever we want. I designate a scribe to copy down what we write, and we get to work. Five characters, lots of descriptors, and two scribes later, we are ready to move on. The next set of instructions are to draw your character using every describer listed. I first show them my character, pointing out where I included each element, and they excitedly get started.
As we work, they all take guesses on what we will be doing with our characters. I share with them my original plan: write a paragraph telling me about your character. They shoot that down and instead we concoct a new plan. We will collaboratively write a book! The four of them are breathless and animated as they tell me about the book they will write. It will be short and illustrated and when finished, I will print copies and they will do a read aloud for the class. “You know how good of a writer I am. Just look at the details in my last story!” one child proudly tells me. We write down our ideas and start to wrap up, gathering all of our materials. I tell them how excited I am and thank them for an excellent class; after high fives are passed all around, we head back to the classroom for their next period.
I cannot express how much I love my position and love working with these young, eager minds, just waiting to learn and grow. I should expect it by now, but these kids blow me away every day, often many times a day. They challenge me and go above and beyond what I anticipate. Maria Montessori encourages us to “follow the child”, and in doing that I have been shown worlds and potentials that I could not have imagined. It’s not always easy and I don’t always feel good. Sometimes I am tired or unwell or struggling. My students test me and push me and make me work for their success, but that is what I love. That little smile when they get something right or the way they get stars in their eyes as their heads swim with ideas. That. That is my reward.
City Year is accepting applications! If you or someone you know is interested in serving a year with City Year, get in touch with a recruiter. Our next application deadlines is January 25th.