By: Claire Mitchell
Each morning as the sun peaks from behind Denver’s skyscrapers, my team and I clap and cheer while Trevista students trickle into the schoolyard. Kids aged 4 to 14 mill around, waiting for their friends or rubbing away the cold from their arms. Those of us in the red jackets cheer “Hey! It’s you! You’re here! That’s great!” while clapping in time in what we call Morning Greeting.
The first time we did this, our middle school students looked at us as if we had second heads or some other horrific deformity. They were equal parts confused, embarrassed, and fascinated in the way a car crash would interest them. Their younger siblings and cousins seemed shyly interested, but quickly looked away if I caught them looking at us. Despite the lukewarm reception we received, my team and I kept cheering away, day after day.
It didn’t take long for the younger students to lose their misgivings. By the end of September they were standing alongside us, clapping to the rhythm of “G-O-O-D, M-O-R-N-I-N-G! Good morning! Good morning!” As the older kids inevitably passed by us they rolled their eyes and looked away, smiles creeping into the corner of their mouths. The weather grew colder while they slowly warmed to our dorky cheering section, despite their best attempts to stay cool.
One fall day, our team stayed inside for training during morning greeting. I felt guiltily relieved for the chance to miss my daily embarrassment in front of the seventh and eighth graders I worked with during class. As I descended the staircase to the second floor, a fifth grade student greeted me. “Miss!” he said breathlessly, “Why weren’t you outside this morning? Nobody was out there to do the songs!” His comment felt like a huge victory: the Trevista students liked us, and wanted our help.
Now, each frosty morning several dozen students liven up our group. Children yell over each other, vying for a turn to lead a chant. A tiny first grade girl regularly jumps into the middle of the circle, leading us in “Get loose! Get funky!” Meanwhile, kids bust out their best dance moves – everything from the shuffle to the Bernie, and all the dances between. Our pocket-sized leader calls out in her squeaky voice, “Get your body mo-ving! It started with yo feet!” In these moments, I cannot disguise the smile on my face. Our silly morning ritual ensures that no matter what happens at home, students always see a familiar smile and hear an enthusiastic greeting when they come to school.
Morning greeting reminds me to enjoy myself, too. Although my service is very challenging, it is also extremely rewarding. Each day with our students teaches me more about human resilience and growth. Being able to make school a fun and cheerful environment has been a privilege thus far in my service year.