"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Thursday, February 24, 2011

opportunity to make a difference

Before I was "Mommy," (which feels like just yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time...) I was a teacher. I taught kindergarten at a Title 1 school and learned more in each one of my four years there than I did in five years of education earning my Bachelor's in Psychology and Master's in Teaching at the very highly-ranked public University I attended. No offense to college, of course, but I didn't learn how to teach in college. College taught me about myself. Teaching taught me about teaching. And teaching twenty-five 5-year olds, half of whom spoke, literally, No English, just about all of whom were living in deep poverty, for seven hours a day, and without a full-time teacher's assistant, was like receiving a crash-course in teaching. Trial by fire. And I loved every minute of it. (Well...maybe not the minute that one of my students walked out of the bathroom with his pants and underwear around his ankles RIGHT as the County Superintendent, who was making his once-yearly visit to our school, was walking into my classroom...but most all the others.)

I loved my kids. Their successes lifted me up and their struggles, both in school and at home, felt like my own. I had the opportunity to co-chair our holiday Angel Tree program for several years and saw, first hand, just how hard these kids had it. As we delivered gifts donated by the teachers and staff to children who would otherwise have been present-less on Christmas, I walked into apartment complexes that, as a young female, made me feel insecure and unsafe...until I remembered that it was also my students' playground...and then I just felt sad. My students had parents in jail, parents taken from their homes by INS, parents who shouldn't have been allowed to parent.

But they also had Parents Who Loved Them. Parents who tried desperately to give their children the life they had never had themselves. Parents who worked two and three jobs to keep that apartment, put food on the table, and to buy clothing to fit their growing-like-weeds kids. Parents who didn't have their own transportation, but who arranged rides and childcare with friends and neighbors in order to attend meetings and conferences at school. Parents who didn't speak English, but who enforced nightly reading by their children so that their kids wouldn't face the same difficulties.

The kids at my former school don't have a lot. But they do have phenomenal teachers. Teachers who work harder than they are required to (and much, MUCH harder than they are compensated for) because they love their jobs and they LOVE their students.

Right now, the teachers and students at my school are building a School Learning Garden, but they need financial support to make their visions a reality. Below is a link to the DonorsChoose site where you can make donations via PayPal. If you would prefer to write a check, send me a message and I'll let you know the school's address.

Here is a description of the project from the website:

My Students: Most of our students live in apartment buildings and have never even planted a seed to watch it grow into a plant. Many of our students have limited English and need real world, hands on experiences to help them to make connections to science and to develop vocabulary.

More than half of our students receive free or reduced lunches. Many are from immigrant families. Most are from families where poverty spans generations. They are eager to learn and achieve, but get little experience outside the classroom beyond television and video games.

My Project:  This school year, we will involve students with the planning, measuring, designing, and planting of a science garden and outdoor classroom. Students will put math principles to real life use and see science in action. The books that I have requested will help us shape the garden and plan lessons where math, science, and language learning will be maximized through student interaction in the garden.

Students will begin to see the real world value of math and science when they can apply what they have learned in the classroom to solve challenges they face in the garden. This project will go beyond pencil and paper to enhance math and science instruction. It will enhance language acquisition by offering students a whole new world of vocabulary for experiences in the natural world and a chance to share those experiences through conversation and writing.

Fundrasing for the books has been successful. Now it's time to get the earth moving.

DonorsChoose site for PayPal Donations: School Garden

Lesson Learned:
Every little bit helps. You know you want to.

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