This morning I wrote a short post about how I need to see the little things I do on a daily basis can make a difference for the kids I work with. It was sort of a pep talk to get me in the right frame of mind to face the day and the challenges ahead.
By this afternoon, I had tears in my eyes. But they were the good kind. Because a group of fifth graders inspired me and made me so proud to be a part of their education.
I started working with most of these kids in Kindergarten. There were a lot of them, four classes with about five or six more students than when my kids were that age. There were enough volunteers to provide some support, but not enough to give them the best start in school. So the district hired three aides, or paraeducators, to rotate through the classes and give each student that extra attention they needed.
That was the year I went from being a parent volunteer to paid staff. Over the years, I’ve added hours and changed roles based on the needs of the students.
But back to the kids. These are the kids I’ve worked with all six years. I helped many of them go from not being able to write their name or open their milk carton to reading multi-syllabic words and being able to open their Gogurt without getting it in their hair. We went from making ABC books to researching on their Chromebooks. We learned about seasons and the solar system, geology and the Gold Rush, farm animals and fractions.
the my fifth graders held a Living Wax Museum. After weeks of research and preparation, they arranged themselves around the classroom, dressed as famous people throughout history as students, school staff, parents, and a pair of police officers from our community came through the exhibit. Each character stood still until someone pushed a button on their poster and they would then give three to five facts about their famous person.
It was amazing. I learned about Edison and Elvis. Jackie Robinson and Jackie Kennedy. Steven Spielberg, Stan Lee, and Sally Ride. Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Houdini. Anne Frank and Annie Oakley. Malala Yousafzai and Marie Curie. Walt Disney and Willie Mays. Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter. J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, and Dr. Suess. Princess Diana and President Kennedy. Bob Marley and Ben Franklin. Laura Ingalls Wilder and Leonardo Da Vinci. Deborah Sampson and a few more I can’t recall because by the time I got to all of them, I had a few goosebumps.
These kids stayed in character (for the most part) in position (really hard, especially after being cooped up for rainy days on end) and replayed their message to at least four classes.
And every single one of them did an outstanding job. Even if they forgot their lines, they kept going, improvising with other facts they’d learned about their character. They stood or sat in place while other classes made their way around the room, sometimes skipping over a person they didn’t know about, or coming back and pressing their buttons only seconds after they just finished speaking.
Did I mention how amazing they were? How they inspired all of the adults in the room? How they made us sigh, and cry a little at how lucky we are to work in public education?