2018 Week 1: Education

picture of Smitha Mahesh CIIPSMITHA MAHESH | CHILD FIRST AUTHORITY

First week of work can summed into one word: creative. During my first week, I had to use a lot of creativity to make products that would aid in our summer project- letters to parents/families; informative pamphlets; brainstorming data organization; and coming up with categories for absence.

But creativity requires knowledge and skill. The highlights of my week would have to be the Bite Session and participating in Child First Authority Drop In Session. The Bite Session awakened my mind to how the history of Baltimore resulted in systematic racism and structural racism that prevented people of color from moving up and creating a large pool of poverty in Baltimore. The thorough presentation taught me so much about Baltimore’s history, but allowed me to reflect about my own perceptions and beliefs. I learned that history is definitely not one-sided and not always commonly perceived. It takes time, listening, and patience to understand the history of Baltimore. So, now a another goal of my summer is to learn the history of Baltimore and the challenges Baltimoreans face, beyond a textbook or news article. And this can mostly be done by listening and meeting people of Baltimore. On another note, I was inspired by the Drop In Session at the Child First Authority HQ. I met many members of Child First Authority and also learned how drop-in sessions inspire creativity and allow space to brainstorm and collaborate on each other’s projects.

Lastly, I learned how to utilize skills beyond their surface-value. I originally picked up the skill of making productive phone calls for charities, but now this skill has transformed into a deeper interpersonal communicative skill where I now am required to step out of my comfort zone and speak with concerned parents and families about students’ attendance. Furthermore, in regards to awe of this week, I was truly awed by the brilliance of youth. I met a very young boy, the age of 12, who explained so vividly what he believed caused chronic absenteeism. He knew the problems and provided deep insight into how to fix these long-term problems. I also met a couple of a middle school girls who have so much confidence, intelligence, and strength that I hope that they do pursue their Girls Club ambitions or sports team or in general find their passion within school.

Going into the second week, I hope to channel further creativity and more listening skills into my work! Let’s go!

 

picture of Lauren Fink CIIPLAUREN FINK | THE INTERSECTION

This week, in addition to planning the youthworks site, I attended a few trainings with the South East Youth Collective. One particularly interesting one centered around trauma informed care. This is a way of interacting with people that presumes that they have dealt with trauma in their past, and consciously work to support them without triggering them. When working with youth, this tactic is especially important, because so many young people in Baltimore feel isolated not only by their families, but by the people in the schools as well. Using a trauma informed approach this summer, I will be more likely to build comfortable relationships with the students. The training also brought up the ACE score (Adverse Childhood Experiences), which consists of 10 different questions about experiences that you had before the age of 18. They discussed the neurological, physiological changes that occur in children who have experienced a higher number of ACEs, and the adverse health affects that occur well into adulthood. The list is so simple, yet even reading the questionnaire was triggering for some of the Baltimore City residents attending the training. Many students are dealing with awful home situations, and it is unreasonable to expect them to perform their best in school without offering them any meaningful support. I believe that adequate counseling is a place where our schools are lacking, and a lack of acknowledgement for the difficult home lives of impoverished students contributes to the achievement gap.

 

picture of Michelle Abt CIIPMICHELLE ABT | SQUASHWISE

During my first week at Squashwise, I had the opportunity to help lesson plan for summer camp’s literacy class, attend and play squash at squash practice with the students in the program, begin curriculum building for citizenship week of summer camp, and bond with the other Squashwise staff members. Squashwise’s summer camp begins on June 25th, so these first two weeks are primarily getting ready for the students to come back. I helped to plan discussion questions and activities for two books, one for the middle school students and one for the high school students. Lesson planning pushed me to think critically about how to engage with the students, and anticipate what they may think or bring up in discussion.

On Monday and Tuesday afternoon, there was squash practice for the students that were headed to a tournament this past weekend. At the beginning of Monday’s practice, we started with a running-suicide sprint relay race to warm up. They had an odd number of students, so I participated as well. After the race ended, they did a second round, but another student showed up so I didn’t participate. When my fellow staff member switched us out, one of the high school boys in line made a comment about my race by saying, “she was pretty fast! She was keeping up with us.” This comment made me realize that the middle and high school students are not used to seeing girls being athletic, or girls that try hard in sports. Additionally, later in practice it was evident that some of the girls did not work very hard, and it was not the norm for them to be passionate about sports. These two examples really illustrated the gender norms that are prevalent today, and how important it is to show both the girls and the boys that girls can be athletic as well. As summer camp begins in a couple weeks, and the students come back to Squashwise, I am really looking forward to building bonds and connections with the students both in the classroom and on the squash courts!

 

picture of Soyun Kim CIIPSOYUN KIM | CODE IN THE SCHOOLS AND SHEPHERD’S CLINIC

I am someone who very much enjoys blending into the background and this causes me to avoid any new environments where I am unfamiliar with the social protocol. For example, I avoided eating at Levering for 3 years just because I didn’t know how and where to order food there. This was one of the reasons why I was so excited to return to Code in the Schools again. I was familiar with the organization and I felt that this allowed me to be an effective and productive member of the office.

Although my first week back at Code in the Schools seemed relatively uneventful, reflecting back I cannot help but feeling extremely accomplished. We are currently programming and preparing for CodeWorks, our YouthWorks program. Because I was with the organization before and during CodeWorks last summer, I felt as though I could significantly contribute to discussions as well lead tasks that needed to be completed. Additionally, my supervisor and organization gave me enough agency and influence so that I was able to change some of overall aspects of the CodeWorks program that I thought were ineffective or redundant last summer.

However, my first day at Shepherd’s Clinic was the complete opposite of the comfort and rhythm I felt at CITS. I walked in not knowing where to go or where my supervisor was and what I was supposed to do that day. After a bit of confusion, I was asked to help intake patients. I was surprised because I thought I was going to be working a desk job at the clinic, and I was even more surprised when the nurse asked me if I wanted to prick someone’s finger for an A1C test. I realized that although I enjoy familiarity and a sense of security, I also greatly appreciate this opportunity for fast paced learning and an active environment. I am looking forward to the new skills I am going to learn and the new people I will meet this summer!

 

picture of Laetitia Zhang CIIPLAETITIA ZHANG | LIBERTY ELEMENTARY

“It’s a good thing you’re wearing flats, ” a staff member said with a laugh as I introduced myself as the new intern. After welcoming me with a hug, Mr. Manko, the Liberty Elementary principal, informed me that he gets 14,000 steps on an average school day. I trailed after him as he sped around the three-story building to send the fifth graders off on a bus for their field trip, check in on students eating breakfast in the library, speak with a staff member about rescheduling another field trip, and return to the office intercom to give the 9am announcements.

I soon found myself in awe of the many roles that Mr. Manko takes on. Having served as Liberty Elementary’s principal for the past eight years, Mr. Manko is well-versed in interacting with a wide variety of people on a regular basis. On Monday alone, I watched as he met with the Parent Teacher Organization board members, mediated a conflict between several students, consoled an upset parent, and oversaw the final staff meeting of the school year. Additionally, I helped Mr. Manko as he scavenged the school to gather over a hundred chairs for the Pre-K and kindergarten closing ceremonies. At the end of the day, he waited with students who were not picked up hours after school had ended and, after several phone calls to parents, drove them home.

Throughout the week, I became more and more captivated by the warm, supportive atmosphere at Liberty Elementary. At their meeting, staff members gave each other shout-outs for helping out with various events and projects. At the fifth grade closing ceremony, which Mr. Manko proclaimed to be “half graduation, half comedy show,” the gym echoed with laughter and cheers as the teachers shared anecdotes about each student receiving their certificate. The sheer volume of community organizations that have long-term partnerships with Liberty is also a testament to the school’s contagious warmth. Collectively, these organizations offer students opportunities including supplementary reading sessions, gardening, and mindfulness training. I found it incredibly heartwarming to see so many people dedicated to support the well-being of Liberty’s young students, and I’m looking forward to being a part of this wholesome environment for the next seven weeks!

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