Monday, April 22, 2013

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” –Frederick Douglass

This week in C2C, Dr. Veda Johnson gave a presentation on school-based health clinics. Her presentation was both fascinating and frustrating. The former because it is so inspiring to see the positive outcomes as a result of an effective strategy to bridge health and education; the latter because of the inability of our society to support such innovative strategies like school-based health clinics despite their positive impact not only on health outcomes of children, but on their educational attainment as well.

During Dr. Johnson’s presentation, she shared several quotes with us. One particular quote by Frederick Douglass really resonated with me – “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” When I read this quote, I immediately felt this sense of hope. Hope for the future; hope for our society, that we will strive toward building strong children; and hope for our generation, that we will see less broken men than generations past.

How, though, will I make an impact in public health so that I am helping to build strong children? It got me thinking about how the lessons I have learned in C2C will translate to my life and my career. How can I carry these unique reminders of what we need to do as public health practitioners to better serve our youth; to better connect health and education; to better foster a generation in which affordable health care and quality education truly are basic human rights?

Our last few minutes of class, we each wrote on a piece of paper how we will use our strengths to impact health and education in the future. One of my strengths is discipline, or the ability to infuse routine, structure, and order into all things I do. Accordingly, I wrote, “I will use my discipline to provide structure and focus to public health education programs.” But what does this actually mean? I hope that as my public health career unravels I find myself working within the intersections of health and education. I know that this is where my greatest passions will ignite and my work as a public health practitioner will be most effective.  

-Logan Kirsch

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. - Dr. Seuss

Originally, I planned to write a blog post about teaching my second lesson plan in Molly’s classroom. After all, I did light a cigarette on school grounds to emphasize the dangers of smoking to the first graders. And I had a very good time doing it. However, teaching my last lesson also reminded me of the conversation Ariela initiated at the end of our last C2C class—How do you plan to say goodbye to the students?

Now, I should preference the rest of my post by saying that I hate goodbyes. I am the worst at saying goodbye, actually. I find it awkward and terribly hard. It just seems so weird to me. How can a person go from being so prevalent in your life (physically, I mean) to just completely gone? Therefore, I often choose the poor coping mechanism of avoidance to deal with goodbyes. I pretend we aren’t saying goodbye for a long period of time or forever. We are just saying goodbye like any other “see you later!”

But that doesn’t really work with students. Particularly the students we work with. How do you say goodbye without having any idea how these students will turn out? I remember when Molly told me that a young boy in her class was moving to another school halfway through the semester because his sibling was kicked out of their elementary school. Molly told me she had just cried after his last day, because he had been doing so well, but was now going to a worse school where he could retrogress. She had nick-named him Yale, because he decided he wanted to go there for college. Will his next teacher encourage him to pursue that dream like Molly did? It made me realize, I am saying goodbye to 20 students and I have no idea what is going to happen them. Will they continue to have people in their lives that care about them as much as Molly does? Will they start smoking in high school, even though they squealed and faked coughed and gagged when I lit that cigarette in class? Will the student Molly nick-named Harvard keep that dream, or will the challenges he faces ahead allow him to settle for something less?

I plan to write each student a thank you note. I want to thank you for sharing their classroom with me and for letting me learn along side with them. I want to thank them for sharing their thoughts, dreams, and lives with me. And I want to tell them once last time that I believe in each and every one of them. Each of them is unique, intelligent, and special. But what I don’t know how to tell them or thank them for, is how much they impacted me. Because of them, I made the final decision to teach at YES Prep next year, a charter school in Houston that requires all their students to be admitted to a 4-year institution before they graduate from high school. I plan to take my memories of their smiles, hugs, and ridiculous questions with me. How do I thank a first grader for that?

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” - The Movie Annie

- Sara Millimet, MPH student, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
Teach For America (Houston, 2013)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C2C's Impact ... From a Teacher's Perspective

As I'm finishing my commitment with Teach For America I'm having a hard time figuring out my next step. I may stay in the classroom another year, but I don't know if it's a good fit for me long term. My experience has made me believe that if we are to make a change drastic enough to affect EVERY child, the program needs to be more do more. I don't know if we currently have enough great teachers who can make up for lost years of opportunity and the prejudices that continue to keep our low-income students down.

The problems that my kids face are more than children should have to bear. Classroom 2 Community helped me realize many of these problems are a result of health disparities. The students that need my classroom most are often the ones that are there the least. It's very frustrating. Classroom 2 Community taught me that even in my math class, I can teach health principles that can help my students make healthier choices in their lives. I've found that there are people and resources are that trying to solve these problems. I'm understanding that this problem is not one that is completely out of my control and there are solutions that are working that can make a difference.

This hope is something that is motivating me to pursue a career where I can make a difference in in children's and family's health. I don't know right now what my exact role will be, but I know Classroom 2 Community has guided my path.

How can I turn my back on these wonderful children? I'm finding a way to make an impact.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities, er Classes

On Tuesday, I taught my first of two lessons to Ms. Daniel's first two periods and they could not have been any different. Literally like night and day. And nothing could have prepared me for how either class went. I taught a lesson on tornado emergency preparedness, which started with a short lecture with the students taking notes using a guided notes worksheet and ended with the students creating a public service announcement (PSA) poster that depicted some of the concepts they learned in the lecture.

First period was incredibly quiet, engaged, and interested. They all took notes on their guided notes sheets, listened attentively, asked questions (although some of them were a little far-fetched, like, "What happens if a person gets sucked up by a tornado?"), and eagerly completed their PSA posters. This behavior was slightly surprising, especially since it was the week before Spring Break and because there are some notorious disruptive individuals in this class. This definitely helped my confidence going into second period...but boy was I in for a surprise.

Second period was the complete opposite of first period. They were talkative, unengaged, and looked downright bored for a lot of the class. There was very little class participation and just missing the interest that was present for first period. If that wasn't bad enough, a fight almost broke out between two boys who were bothering each other the entire class period. I don't know how she did it, but Ms. Daniel somehow managed to make it from the back of the room to in between the boys in the blink of an eye and separated the boys before any punches could actually be thrown. I was honestly scared and shocked when this happened, but what shocked me more was that the other students barely reacted. There was some chatter after the fact, but they all just went back to working on their posters as if nothing had really happened.

I learned a lot from this experience. One, that these students have the ability to be genuinely interested to learn and that they are capable of amazing work (pics of some posters are attached). Two, that these students grow up in a climate where fighting and confrontation is the norm, which hinders the learning they are (possibly secretly) yearning to do. And three, that I cannot assume that how one class or lesson goes will predict that the others will go equally as well. I need to strive to do my best every time I teach.

~Heather Marsh (Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral Sciences & Health Education)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Things That Stick

today, teaching refugee kids in Clarkston with Alek reminded me of my first lesson with Ms. Allen. 

the important messages from C2C stick:
one. keep it simple 
two. set expectations high 
three. appeal to different learning styles 
four. check for understanding

our message:
keep your teeth strong. what is good for teeth?
one. water
two. vegetables
three. brushing your teeth

we kept it simple. we had each child tell us again and again. water. vegetables. brushing your teeth. we had hand motions. we had a song. we had success. 

the C2C skill set is invaluable. like a simple message, it sticks. 

what also sticks are the people and the passion. i continue to learn from the people around me. being impressed by erin's honesty. picking up alek's class management line, "we know you are good listeners, but we need you to show us." and being inspired by the incredible spirit of each kid. 

-lolly beck-pancer, MPH candidate, C2C 2012

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Life as a C2C Alumna: Or “Excuse me, have you considered ‘Think. Pair. Share.’?”

“… Thank you all for participating in our workshop today. I welcome any feedback you have to make this session better.”

I raise my hand.


How the instructor probably saw me when I raised my hand at the workshop.


“I appreciated the interactive aspects of this workshop, but have you considered using ‘Think. Pair. Share.’ to increase participation?” I ask.

My question is met by a look of confusion.

I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all. I’m not. This teaching stuff is all pretty new to me. But Classroom to Community has seeped into every aspect of my life. Now, that I’ve entered my “professional life,” I’m sharing some teaching techniques with anyone who will listen. I feel exasperated when an instructor clearly didn’t “plan backward.” I have to hold myself back from shouting “If you can hear me, clap once!” in a meeting room full of talkative grownups. Luckily, I haven’t started handing out gold star stickers to good speakers when I attend a conference (but this takes a lot of self-control).

C2C’s team and TFA’s Ms. Bryson have given me this repertoire of teaching tools, as well as a multitude of concrete skills. Look up state teaching standards, you say? Nothing easier. Design questions using Bloom’s taxonomy? Sure thing. But they’ve also given me something that no text book could provide: a reality check. I’d say that the greatest (and hardest) lesson from C2C came from directly facing barriers in health and education equity. These barriers aren’t just going to disappear. And many of the steps we need to take to address them aren’t easy.

Right now, I’m doing a fellowship at the Environmental Protection Agency. I’m learning about science communications, environmental education, spatial analysis and more. I’m gathering my skills and collecting experiences to help me grow some barrier-breaking strength and expertise. 

Where am I going after this? I’m not sure. But having seen the faces of the kids whose fate is actually decided in large part by a broken system puts a little sense of urgency into putting my skills to good use.

-Gaelle Gourmelon, C2C 2012

Monday, March 25, 2013

From Weezy to Keezy

You don’t know what a trap house is?  You said you listen to Weezy and you don’t know what a trap house is? You never seen Boyz n the Hood?

Is that a movie??

I sat at a lab bench with my after-school crew of 16-18 year olds. We ate warm pizza with warm Pepsi, discussing crack houses, dope houses, the general location where drugs are sold or made. We were in the throes of designing a survey on prevalent health issues at Washington High School.

I stopped typing and laughed at their general disgust of my naivety.  Then, I laughed at myself. These kids could have been speaking of string theory in Mandarin and I would have felt smarter. But, oddly enough, my inadequacy really took me off guard. See, this survey isn’t my first rodeo in drug questionnaires, Biggie Smalls was my first true love, and I attended a high school at the intersection of 2 interstates (2 words: drug exchange). I’m not used to being schooled by 16-year-old kids on public health issues. But, it was awesome and I don’t think I would have always said that.

I am a 2012 graduate of C2C.  A little over a year ago, I stepped into an APS classroom for the first time. I won’t say I never looked back.  I won’t say it was a reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of love. But I will say that my path is a little bit rockier, a little bit messier, and a little bit more enlightened because of it. When I came to Atlanta, I had an idealistic view of the world as a ripe and golden promise land.  Give the kids all the knowledge! Give Africa all the condoms! Can’t stop, won’t stop.

But I failed.

Not because I didn’t make it rain condoms down in Africa, that’s probably not actually what they need. But because I gave up. Public Health programs aren’t perfect and I have no idea what I’m doing. That’s hard.

See, C2C got me thinking. I’m noticing the bigger issues, the structural inequalities that are more than “inconvenient.” I’m frustrated, I’m borderline (completely) desperate, and I’m so over red tape. But I’m also thankful because I’m not the only one. There are about 50 amazing men and women that have graced room 3001, and this is just the start.

The truth is, you’ll hate some moments.  You’ll hate the stupid boxes on lesson plans that represent the vicious, stifling concept of being organized. You’ll hate that you don’t know the right answers or the dream solutions. But, it doesn’t matter. We’re all here because we dreamed of something bigger. This is one chance to prove, be it to yourself, that you still do.

-Erin Keyes