By: Claire Mitchell
Although it seemed like winter would never end, today (March 20th) marks the official start of spring. With the sun up longer and temperatures rising, my teammates and I notice a change in our school climate as well. Among the Trevista at Horace Mann City Year team there is a noticeable shift to a more positive outlook. Maybe we can actually pull this thing off.
Many corps members agree that January and February were our most challenging months of service yet. During the winter we arrived at school in pitch black, single-digit weather. I caught a glimpse of the sun during recess, and did not see it again for another 24 hours since it was also dark when we left school around 5:30 pm. Now in late March, however, we arrive and leave school with the sun overhead. Words cannot describe how much more cheerful it is to exit school with some daylight left.
The students are also happier. During recess they play basketball, soccer, and tetherball, or simply hang out with their friends under the shade of a tree. Although every student in Denver is buckling down for TCAP tests this week, their outlook seems lighthearted and cheerful after coming inside from their afternoon break. After months of implementing math and literacy small groups from the first through last bell in our school, it is a huge relief to just let loose and have fun with our students during recess.
Our students’ positive attitude was most apparent during an activity we did in small groups last week. I wanted to give the kids a mental and physical break before they dove into their TCAP tests. I asked students to stand up after I read a sentence if it was true for them. The declarations started out easy – “stand up if you are tired in the morning.” “Stand up if you hate taking tests.” A few questions into the activity we dove into deeper issues, though.
“Stand up if you want to graduate from high school.” Every student in my group stood for this statement. We talked about how they wanted an easier life than their parents, and how an education would help them achieve that goal. One student started a sentence “If I graduate,” and I asked her to start saying “when I graduate” instead. I told them that half the battle is changing your mindset; schoolwork will seem easy after you overcome your own doubts about the future.
Seeing my students stand and declare to their peers that they will graduate was a shining, proud moment of my year thus far. The dark, winter months are behind us. Now it feels as if all of the hard work my team has put in over the past eight months is making a positive change in our students’ lives.