by Elizabeth Olson, City Year New Hampshire AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Parker-Varney Elementary School team
On the first day of the school year, I had no idea what to expect as I walked through the doors of Parker-Varney Elementary School. It was only just a few days before that I had learned that I would be partnered with not just one, but two teachers. While excited, I was also apprehensive about building two different relationships in two different classrooms. Some City Year AmeriCorps members, like me, are assigned to two classrooms in Parker-Varney due to grade banding. Grade banding is an innovative and experimental concept that gives students the opportunity to work more in depth at their level, instead of at the traditional grade levels. I was placed in a 4th & 5th grade band with Mrs. Callanan and Mrs. Dechirico. Even though I was initially worried about supporting two classrooms, my partner teachers have made the transition effortless.
Planning my time between the two classrooms was actually pretty easy with the help of my partner teachers. In the beginning I would switch between the two classes several times throughout the day. Eventually this became exhausting and confusing, and I decided I needed a change. After communicating this with Mrs. Callanan and Mrs. Dechirico, we settled on designated days for working with each class. Mondays and Wednesdays I spend in Mrs. Dechirico’s room, and Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m with Mrs. Callanan’s students. This schedule has been working out pretty well and my partner teachers are extremely flexible, which helps a lot.
One of the many creative activities my partner teachers have introduced is the CaliCo Cafe. A play on their names (CALI -nan and Dechiri - CO), the CaliCo cafe allows the students to “taste” a variety of books. To create the cafe, we placed tablecloths and flowers on the desks to mimic dining tables. At each dining table there were four of the same books set out as the main meal. In groups, students went around to the tables and read a few pages of each book. After reading they would rate the book using a five star system. Everyone really enjoyed this activity and were able to find books in which they were actually interested.
Mrs. Callanan and Mrs. Dechirico have been amazing and inspiring teachers to work with. Together as a team they create such a fun and creative environment for the students. Whether they're having an impromptu dance party in class or having intense life discussions, there is never a dull moment in class. I admire them so much for their endless commitment and love for their students. I can always count on hearing their laughs from down the hall and their cheery greetings in the morning. I wouldn’t ask for it any other way!
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