2021 Week 4: Education & Youth Advocacy
JORDAN ADAMS | CALVIN M. RODWELL ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL
This week I’ve been thinking about the ways that teachers and school staff interact with students. I have seen a few of them this week at my school talk to students with a disparaging tone without reason, and even if there was reason that does not make it okay for adults to yell at kids. When the students make mistake they’re reprimanded by having their lunch tossed before they finish eating, or sitting out during enrichment, but they are never talked to about their actions and given room to learn from their mistakes. This has been upsetting for me to see, especially since my class is full of kindergarten kids who are oftentimes restless and wanting to move around. When they don’t follow rules, I try to lead them into understanding why they may be in trouble. It reminds me of my elementary school days, except then my mother, and many other parents, gave teachers and administrators permission to physically discipline us… there were even paddles in classrooms specifically for teachers to swing on students’ bottoms. Luckily that no longer happens, or it happens very little, but school staff, especially in predominantly Black schools, talk to kids in ways that are hurtful to them. With my students, when they don’t follow classroom rules or directions, instead of yelling at them, I sit them down and have a conversation with them, and when I send them on their way or have them sit out, I see that they’ve learned from it instead of going back to misbehaving.
GENESIS AIRE | DENT EDUCATION
It’s crazy to think that I’m almost halfway through our programming at Dent. In all honesty, compared to how chaotic the last couple of weeks have been, my fourth official week working has been pretty quiet. My Co Coach and I are still figuring out the day to day programming but with help from our Site Supporter, we’ve settled into a comfortable routine together. Thus, most of my worries have centered around our Denters’ progress and engagement during our meetings.
We have a relatively quiet group, most of them mentioned that they want to be more social and participate more in discussions. But lately, it’s felt that they’re moving at a pace that’s not quick enough. Given the fact that we’re at the halfway mark, I’d hoped, at the bare minimum, that at least half of their cameras would be on. It’s interesting because I do get where they’re coming from. If I had the option to have my camera off during my classes, I doubt I’d choose to have it on. Having your camera on during a Zoom session is a lot more anxiety inducing than just being in person because at any given point, anyone can see what you’re doing. And especially with social distancing guidelines and virtual classes for the last year, social interactions have become a lot more emotionally draining than before. So I do empathize with them, I too am still realizing I have to push myself to leave my house. But I wish they would push themselves to engage a bit more, at least the quieter students. The majority of them, I would say, have shown a lot more willingness to unmute and react in the chat than before.
Maybe I’m being a little too hard on myself, but it’s almost impossible to gauge how the Denters are responding to the material we present without seeing their reactions. In summary, this experience has taught me a lot about myself, but also, regarding the virtual format and the toll the pandemic has taken on students younger than me, it’s allowed me to reflect a bit more. I suppose when I’d previously looked at the situation, I’d looped myself into the population of students who would face unknown consequences, primarily social, due to virtual education and the entirety of the pandemic. And while I knew that my social skills wouldn’t suffer as much as maybe elementary school students, I didn’t really think about how differently it would affect high school students. I suppose it’s because there’s only a few year age difference, but the fact that these students were mostly interacting with their parents and people not their age, for a much longer period than I was, that really differentiates a high schoolers online school experience from a college students’. Coming from the student perspective and now to a teacher-esque perspective, I’m realizing that no one really benefited from the virtual format. Students were too easily able to disengage, and teachers presumably felt more isolated due to constantly talking to blank screens. I guess this reflection took a bit of a negative turn, but in all honesty, it’s due to my Zoom fatigue. For the last year and a half almost, that little blue icon has been an eyesore on my Dock and while I know that Zoom sessions will still exist in the future, to varying degrees, I’m looking forward to the day I can finally click “Uninstall”.
EM AMBROSIUS | VILLAGE LEARNING PLACE
I know I wasn’t able to do much reflection last week because I will still coming to terms with the difficulty of managing the mental health of the students. From a lot of thought, I think engaging with the students that seem to be uninterested in being at our camp was difficult and this past week we saw the same issue on a larger scale. Our class that had been made up of five students in the first week only had a maximum of three students show up for the second week but multiple times we only had two students in our class.
I kept being brought back to a conversation I had with Whit Johnson back in the fall of 2020 when we were doing online work for Hopkins Votes. He said that sometimes organizing is difficult when the community doesn’t show up but that doesn’t mean you should stop organizing. Both classes ended up dwindling to a total of five students that came with us on the sailing field trip on Friday. So far the field trips have been such a delight since they are letting me explore more of Baltimore and expose these children to new fun experiences like fishing in the harbor.
One thing that Mr. Daniel and I talked a lot about is how these students are recovering from their year of isolation. They seem almost traumatized and looking for constant approval to speak and engage since they may have got a lot of push back from parents while working from home. Especially moving to the next week with the 1st/2nd graders who may not have ever been in person for school and may not know the norms or social expectations causing them to be anxious and confused.
This weekend was really difficult, I went to Indianapolis to visit some family since my Great Aunt is in the hospital. She isn’t doing well and will probably go home from the hospital soon and hospice will be called in. It was a hard weekend and seeing my dad tear up was so hard to see. I am trying to take the time I need for myself and work through all of the emotions and grief.
Hoping for happy things in this week to come and I am supremely excited for our midpoint get-togethers and celebration..
MORGAN BUCHANAN | ACADEMY FOR COLLEGE AND CAREER EXPLORATION
After reviewing the goals sheet I prepared just before the start of my internship, I do recognize that my goals have slightly changed, but for the most part have remained constant and are things I’m working towards achieving everyday, as they are more long term and span the entire internship rather than event/task based.
My personal goals at the start included being a ‘right-hand’ of sorts for both students and faculty at ACCE. I had hoped to gain a better understanding of the different community needs each program addresses through my involvement in the summer programming at ACCE. I also had a wider-scale goal of reconnecting to Baltimore through both CIIP programming and hands-on experience with the community school programs.
The reason these goals have slightly changed is due to the nature of summer programming and the post-covid conditions. The main summer program involving students at ACCE, which is essentially a summer bridge program for new students at ACCE to build relationships while strengthening their academic skills, has only just started last week on Tuesday. Monday and Tuesday are the only in-person days for this program, and Tuesday was the first day and was too hectic for me to join in on, so I have yet to work with this program and the students. I will hopefully be working with them next week though, so I can further work on my goal of being a resource/support for the students at ACCE. Besides working with the food access program, which I have accomplished my original goal to become very comfortable and independent with, I have been doing some things at ACCE that I hadn’t expected to do. This week, my main task has been connecting with the families of ACCE students that struggled to meet attendance and classroom demands over the last year. I have had many very meaningful conversations with families of ACCE students, but also some upsetting conversations as well. In some cases, the family is very willing and eager to work with us to get their student back on track, and in other cases there is little to no support from the parents in regard to academics. Coming from a similar background, I have experienced first-hand the sheer difficulty of achieving academic goals (and honestly not just achieving them, having the drive to set them in the first place) without familial support. So, an additional goal that I originally didn’t have is identifying resources/support for these students that aren’t meeting classroom/attendance demands.
ANDREA GUILLÉN | BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
In conversations about how to connect with college-aged tutors, my supervisor mentioned how important it is to get tutors that looked like the district’s student body, one that is 75% African American. Representation in educational settings is extremely important. Students may expand their understanding of their future possibilities and may gain more trusting connections with role models that have gone through similar experiences. The power of representation is something many BIPOC communities have been aware of for a while and have been trying to work towards in their schools.
In doing some research work on representation, I found that many educational circles today consistently cite a 2018 Johns Hopkins paper when explaining the reasoning behind initiatives on increasing representation. But rarely is there a mention of the fact that many families have been trying to implement strategies to increase representation in their schools for ages. I never saw a mention of the Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights Era founded by Black families in order to achieve, in part, representation, for example. Observing this multiple times was just the stark reminder about the power large institutions, especially one like Hopkins, have in their cities and the power they hold over different narratives, oftentimes trumping the voices of those actually experiencing the realities.
To start the landscaping of a college-focused tutoring program, I was tasked with creating a list of contacts at local universities in Baltimore city and Baltimore County that the district could reach out to get some ideas for a tutoring program. My first searches were obvious; community engagement departments and mentoring/tutoring student clubs. I was trying to keep the goal for a representative body of tutors in mind, so I began poking around multicultural offices and student organizations, but I was also slightly hesitant because of a Tweet I read a while back ago (crazy how a 280-character tweet can lead to such pause). I cannot remember the tweet exactly, but the gist was that a BIPOC student was asked to lead part of her college’s diversity conference, and her father asked if other white students also had to put their studies on hold to work on the diversity conference like she was being expected to do.
Hearing from my BIPOC peers, I have heard similar stories. With the limits of twenty-four hours a day, many are faced with having to decide between finishing a chemistry problem set or attending a meeting about diversity in the chemistry department’s faculty. How do we work towards a representative body of tutors for the district without putting all the responsibility on African American college students, who are trying to manage their own studies, lives, and goals?
In one of our meetings, there was a lot of excitement about leveraging resources from Hopkins to support a tutoring initiative, especially given Hopkins’ presence in Baltimore. If the body of tutors from Hopkins is representative of Hopkins as a whole, only 15% of tutors would identify as African American/Black; does that meet the need for representation for a school district that is 75%, Black?
There were so many questions that needed to be answered and I had no idea how to approach them, leading me to just be hesitant to even bring them up. The intersection of my own identities, a white Puerto Rican female, has allowed me, for the most part, to feel represented in the school. My own experience being a tutor has made me representative for Latine or female students, but still not representative for all Latine or all-female students because of my identity as a white person. For the tutoring program to support both school and university BIPOC students, the people making the decisions about the program had to be the people that would be contributing to and benefiting from the program; the students themselves.
While it does go back to the same question, should BIPOC university students “put their studies on hold” to support the planning of the tutoring program? But just as there were already families calling for representation before the Hopkins paper came out, there are already BIPOC members of the Hopkins community that I’ve chatted with about the potential of the program that has already begun to share ideas (such as modeling it after the Matriculate program) and excitement on how to approach the program in a supportive way. I’m not entirely sure of an exact answer to the questions and the questions may not be answered easily. But the role I currently play in the development of the tutoring program needs to be one where I keep these questions in mind and work to connect with those in the Hopkins and Baltimore community that are already working towards positive and supportive forms of representation.
AARON HARRIS | HAMPDEN FAMILY CENTER
On Monday, I came in at 10:00 to put in the finishing touches on the activity room and the program schedule with Catey and Pierre. There’s nothing too interesting that happened that day; the week really began on Tuesday – that was my first day meeting all the kids – bright and early at 9:00. We had already decided that I would be primarily supervising the boys while Catey would primarily be responsible for the girls. The first thing I noticed was how many kids didn’t show up for the first day! I was expecting to be dealing with 14 children total, but only 8 showed up, 4 boys and 4 girls. Catey and I had planned getting-to-know-you icebreakers, but luckily for me everyone seemed to know each other already. The first day was mostly getting to know my group, and guiding them through the activities planned throughout the day. Art with a Heart, another group partnering with CIIP, was one of the first activities on the schedule and we also organized an hour block for the kids to learn how to use the point and shoot cameras. After finishing those two activities, we then took lunch and the kids were able to spend of the rest of the day doing activities of their choice. The second day followed basically the same pattern, except the art and photos were replaced with skateboarding at Roosevelt Park (with another local volunteering to teach them) and coding in the computer labs. On Thursday, which is the last day of camp for that week, we took a field trip to Woodberry Crossing, which itself is a nonprofit organization about 30 minutes outside of Baltimore that is basically a giant ranch/farm. When we got there, we sat through a presentation about water pollution and even got to design a floating island designed to combat it. We then got to take a tour of the where the animals were staying, and went on a 20 minute walk to the creek, where the kids swam and played while most of the adults stayed on the shore. We took lunch, and we all spent the rest of the day playing in the pool. Because the camp is only three days a week, Friday was mainly spent reviewing the lessons learned from this week and translating those lessons to preparations for the next week. There were also some additional roles and logistical issues that came throughout the week that were resolved that day.
Overall, my first week with the kids went better than I thought it would. I shared with my boss Pierre the week before that I had been extremely nervous to work with kids, especially after not having done it since high school. However, I instantly connected with all of them, and it wasn’t too hard commanding their attention when I needed to. Some of the kids do suffer from hyperactive disorders, and because of the situations they have had to grow up in, I made sure I was patient with those who were acting out frequently. Admittedly, it was a struggle to transition between activities, and from activities to eating periods. The staff tried to keep the group from mixing too much for COVID reasons (the kids are too young to be vaccinated), and we noticed early on that it was hard to keep them energized and motivated throughout the day since the transition periods were so unstructured, and they lost a lot of energy there. Going forward, we think it will be best if we organize energizers throughout the day, particularly right after arrival and before lunch. I believe that our ability to recognize shortcomings was definitely our greatest asset to making sure the schedule remained structured but engaging. I was also able to flex one of my (few) side skills – photography! On the field trip day, I brought my DSLR with me to Woodberry and was able to about 15 really nice pictures for my portfolio. I uploaded the pictures to the organization’s OneDrive, and I think those pictures will be crucial in the social media aspect of the Hampden Family Center’s publicity focus. Overall, I’m simply excited for what next week will bring, and getting to meet more of the kids!Tags: 2021, Academy for College and Career Exploration, Baltimore City Public Schools, Calvin Rodwell Elementary, CIIP, Code in the Schools, Dent Education, Education, Hampden Family Center, Village Learning Place, Youth Advocacy