This week I have hit burnout and found it very challenging to get through the workday every day. It’s both interesting and unfortunate for me to experience this because I did not think I would feel burnt out in the work I’m doing. But I’m overestimated how exhausting it is working with children, regardless of how worthwhile it is. I spend a lot of my workday curbing improper behavior and doing conflict resolution between students over things like touching one another’s belongings and saying mean things. And because they are kindergarteners, I deal with these things all day long. At one point I reconsidered my career aspirations because I was so tired after a long day; I questioned whether or not I was cut out for working in a school full-time. But I realized that, just because I am tired for one day or for a few days, doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the work, or that the work suddenly means nothing to me. I had a conversation with one of my supervisors, and she said that she was taking the next week off because she needed a mental health break. In that conversation I said that it is very important to take those days off and that she shouldn’t feel guilty about doing so, and that was funny to me because it was advice that I ignored for myself. She thanked me for saying that and that it was something she needed to hear. During the same conversation she asked if I was able to stay at the school during the academic year! I told her that I would definitely love to and would consider doing so after taking a look at my schedule, and it encouraged me to keep working hard because my work was being noticed and appreciated.
2021 Week 5: Education & Youth Advocacy
JORDAN ADAMS | CALVIN M. RODWELL ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL
Earlier this week, I finally mustered up the courage to read over the last couple of blogs I’d written. Honestly, in the back of my head, I’ve just been writing into the abyss and clicking submit at the end of the week, hoping that, at the least, I’m entertaining Reah with my workplace shenanigans. However, during our Bites session, I was reminded that my blogs, as well as my cohort’s, are indeed up on the CSC website. So a couple of hours ago, I read over the blog posts of my fellow CIIPers, and I realized I hadn’t done a “Day in the Life ‘ style blog yet.
In order to encapsulate a typical workweek for a Coach at Dent during our Bet on Baltimore (BoB) programming this summer, I first need to explain how my Co Coach and I delegate work. We decided that it was most efficient if we switched off days leading sessions. This would give us both ample time to prepare our presentations, as well as allow for things to run more smoothly in the virtual format. This week I have Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And while we are given curriculums on the main things to focus and emphasize with our Denters, a lot of the day to day activities fall on our discretion. Personally, something I struggled with in the beginning, was finding creative icebreakers that would incentivize the Denters to participate and also allow them to get to know each other. Most icebreakers I’d known at this point require breakout rooms and/or having your camera on. They also were even more awkward online, as people could easily not engage and remain on mute, so I had to be a bit creative. I was watching one of my favorite youtubers, Cody Ko, when I was struck with the idea: a Tier List! Personally, I’ve never done a tier list myself, but I did realize, after a heated debate broke out on the first day between our Site Supporter and one of our Denters, over whether or not to put sugar in spaghetti sauce, that we could have a Hot Takes and Unpopular Opinion debate. So in the morning, I’d prepared various prompts and unpopular opinions to defend. Turns out that was a good way to encourage even the quietest students, to speak out and share their opinion. At the end of the day, Olivia Rodrigo stans will defend their queen no matter who’s in their way. Later that day, I decided that as a group, we could rank Pixar movies on a tier list: S being the best and F being the worst. Not only did everyone participate, either in chat or aloud, but we got into an extremely heated debate over whether pickle juice and hot cheetos go together, and one Denter controversially claimed that to season chicken, you only really need salt and pepper. He goes into a very detailed explanation regarding compound seasonings, so if you’d like to hear his argument, let me know.
After the success of our Hot Take Debates and the Tier List activity, I decided to implement it into a weekly game on Fridays. It gave the Denters something to look forward to at the end of the week, time to argue over various movies/snacks, and it also allowed them to get to know random things about each other. Week Two I’d also decided to send them a survey asking them to share random facts about themselves and unpopular opinions. This paved the way for our other weekly game, “Guess that Denter (or Coach)”. That game has also proven to be successful, although I have noticed that some of the debates get loud at times. Our third round of the Tier List (Marvel movies edition) proved to be the least controversial. For the most part, we agreed on where to rank each film, but occasionally, a few Denters would get into a heated debate and forget to let the people that raised their hand speak. Here’s where I come in. As of last Friday, I’ve proven that I will, in fact, mute Denters who don’t choose to engage in our discourse civilly (mwahahaha).
This post is turning out to be a lot longer than I anticipated, but I believe I failed to answer the question I originally aimed to. Since I’m starting off the week, I spent most of Friday planning our activities. As I mentioned earlier, most of our Denters are pretty quiet, at least compared to others from different sites. An occurring problem over the last week or so, has been the lack of communication in teams. Long story short, our group is split into three teams that do independent work for an outside client in order to solve a problem relating to their organization. One group is raising awareness of a nonprofit through a magazine using Canva. Another group is spreading the influence of a local journalism company through a video advertisement. And the third group is launching a Facebook page spreading awareness about mental health in order to target an older audience to break down the stigma surrounding the topic. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the work they’ve done in just over a week and a half, however, after my check in calls with a few Denters, it was brought to my attention that there is a bit of a communication problem amongst certain groups.
Some students choose to leave their computer and do something else once they’re in a breakout room, instead of working on the project or delegating certain things for everyone to work on. I think, fundamentally, the problem lies with team chemistry. They really don’t know each other, and some students might be less encouraged due to the virtual format, to talk and go out of their way to discuss non-work related things. So I decided to focus all of Monday on team building. We already discussed team norms, but I want them to get to know each other in a more fun environment and encourage them to compete in groups. Thus, tomorrow, thanks to a bit of guidance from the Dent curriculum, we’ll be taking personality tests that should help determine roles for them within their groups. Maybe someone who is more extroverted should present, while a more introverted person should focus on research and creating the PowerPoint. I think that activity should allow them to reflect a bit more. Later in the day, I’m tasking them to create a Team Flag that shows all their personalities as well as their interests. Then, we’ll move onto Jeopardy (Disney edition), which hopefully will be a new fun activity where they’ll need to work together. Lastly, they’ll have a bit of time at the end of the day to work on their designs to present on Thursday.
I don’t know if that encapsulates a “typical” day at Dent, but honestly, as you can probably tell, each day varies on what the Denters really need. Typically, we would spend Monday and Tuesday developing their designs, and doing teamwork. Wednesday we would practice presentations and create a list of questions for our interviews with our partners on Thursday. Then on Friday, we would dissect the conversations from Thursday and think about next steps. Not to mention that we have two speakers coming every Tuesday and Friday to our Site to discuss their work/entrepreneurship, and one Dent-Wide speaker every Wednesday. However, as I mentioned, I decided to focus this upcoming Monday on team building so the Denters can hopefully work more cohesively. I hope this blog wasn’t too long or dense. This week especially, I’ve felt more assured of myself. Now that we’re more than halfway through programming, I’ve definitely noticed a lot more Denters going out of their comfort zone and the prototypes of the designs they’ve made for their partners have truly surpassed all the expectations I had.
Not too much happened this week. I was supposed to assist in the 1st/2nd grade classroom but with four adults and only five students, it seemed like overkill to have that many adults with such a low number of children. So on Monday I learned I had been pulled from being in person in class and I was then going to help out around the office. On Monday, I assisted in Mr. Daniel’s online 5th/6th grade class. On Tuesday I staffed the library. On Wednesday I worked to catalogue books that have been donated over the last year of the library being closed and I continued to assist with Mr. Daniel’s online class. On Thursday I continued cataloguing books and on Friday I went with the 1st/2nd grade class to the aquarium.
I was disappointed to not be in class with the 1st/2nd graders since I was especially excited to work with that age group. But having this time has allowed me to tackle the book cataloguing project that Annie and I had discussed. I didn’t expect to be able to start this project this summer since working with the children took up so much of my time. Additionally, it is a lot more calm work which has been a nice break and rest.
I have been thinking a lot about the difference in engagement of the 5th/6th graders from the children that were in person and those that are online. The online students seem a lot more engaged with the activities that we are taking part in than any of the students that came in person. It is a very strange dichotomy and reminds me that the weird online nature of this summer is preventing a lot of students from engaging with our programming that would greatly benefit from it. Overall this week has been pretty wonderful and quiet and I am very much excited to see what happens next week.
MORGAN BUCHANAN | ACADEMY FOR COLLEGE AND CAREER EXPLORATION
Of the many things I’ve learned so far throughout my internship this summer — some relating to the dynamics of a job/work environment, others more general surrounding community work — the most impactful for me has been developing my understanding of problems and solutions.
I’ve spoken about this a bit in a previous blog, but there is one thing I ended up doing this summer that I wasn’t expecting: connecting with students/families regarding attendance and lack of engagement in school.
I originally was doing this by calling the families of these students to have a conversation about the student’s attendance and what we at ACCE can do to get the student more engaged. My expectation going into this was to get blown off quite a bit/not taken seriously because this was a year of virtual learning for students that had a lot going on other than school. I myself missed more classes virtually than I ever would have if they were in person this year so I assumed this was the reason so many students were on our list to reach out to. For a lot of students, this was definitely the reason given, but I realized this might not be what’s actually going on. My supervisor and I began going on home visits to the families of these students, and she could remember so many of the homes that we went to because she had had to make previous visits regarding attendance in other years (non-covid years). In talking to the families, often even just witnessing the way a family member reacted when they were not open to speaking with us, I realized there can be so many reasons that contribute to this one outcome of an attendance issue. This is a realization that I will use in every future profession/pursuit of life goals I’m sure, as this has opened my eyes to the complexity of life, and that there might not be, and probably isn’t, a single solution for an issue. I’ll have to be more cognisant of this when working to develop solutions throughout my life.
ANDREA GUILLÉN | BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
One of my tasks this week was to pull together a list of organizations that work with the school district, but that also had programming that families could connect with directly for support and resources. As my supervisor described, the best way to support families is to integrate them into a network of resources. Families that trust the school district will trust the resources recommended to them by the school district, allowing for that support network that is trustworthy and resourceful to develop and support future partnerships and initiatives.
Deep diving into community partners’ websites reminded me of a question that I had been arguing about with myself for ages: do nonprofits prioritize those that need support from the non-profit or those that help keep the non-profit running? I found that among many of the organization’s websites, it was easier to find out how to donate or how to volunteer than it was to find out how to access the offered resources as a client. For some organizations, the donation page had fancy graphics about what could be donated, different drop-off locations throughout Baltimore, and how to become a sponsor, while the page for clients simply had an email address, phone number, or a single location where resources could be picked up. Some sites only listed what services they offered, with no contact information or hyperlinks. Others did not even have a page for clients, so I assumed everything was internal (a few sites mentioned that clients needed a social worker to access resources).
This is a question I’ve been faced with a few other times throughout this summer. When I was landscaping other school district’s volunteer websites and policies, many of them used strong “saviorist” language to attract volunteers. Volunteer work, whether that be in the non-profit sector or schools, always leads back to the same question: sustainability. What good is a program or initiative if it can’t sustain itself? But is there ever a cost? The lack of ease in finding the exact resources compared to volunteer programming on the community organization websites can only be exacerbated by someone with limited time or limited access to technology. It felt like the process of actually seeking out those services was a “hush-hush” topic. That the nitty-gritty details of attaining services and resources did not need to be the face of the organization, that was a private matter. What needed to be the face of the organization was the gist of what they did and all of the volunteers and donors that allowed them to do so. Sometimes playing into “saviorist” language or something similar is the only way to gain volunteers and donations, because sometimes that’s the only thing that motivates people to support their community.
In my experience at the CSC and CIIP, we’re critical of “saviorist” language and I feel that the same folks would be critical of the same things as I on these websites. I feel that being aware of these things, being critical of them, and avoiding “saviorist” language has been something I’ve tried to uphold in my work. That those coming from outside of the community to volunteer, like myself in many situations, should not be highlighted above the community itself. What is a bit disheartening is that I am interested in non-profit or school administration in the future. How does my goal of prioritizing the clients from the community conflict with a future job where I may have to publicly prioritize volunteers and donors on websites and advertising, potentially even using “saviorist” language, in order to sustain the work? Similar to my last blog post, I do not have an answer quite yet. Being aware and questioning the work I do from the lens of both sustainability and who is in the center of the narrative, whether that be in the language used or in the website design, is the starting point of me answering this question.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