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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time to Teach! Your advice and encouragement needed!

Our Emory Classroom to Community students will be teaching their first health education lessons next week. Emotions range from excited to terrified, and everything in between. We'd like to use this space to have folks post some words of advice and encouragement.

Whether you are a teacher, a fellow C2C student, a C2C alum, or another fan of C2C reading this blog, please consider responding in the comments section below to one of the following prompts:

  • What's the best/worst piece of advice you were given about teaching?
  • Describe a humbling moment you've had as a teacher. What happened and what did you learn from the experience?
  • How did you feel before you taught your first lesson?
  • What's your favorite song to get you pumped up and feeling good about yourself?

Thank you for taking time to create a supportive community for C2C!

Ariela and Audra

(Photo: Erika Rees in the classroom of Mr. Scot Seitz, 2012)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Improv: Our Students' Day at School

A few weeks ago in C2C we had the chance to take an improv comedy class. It was so much fun! I left the class with a stomach sore from laughing so hard. Then, last night we went to see an improv show by the troupe that gave our class. The audience would yell out topics for the troupe to do a sketch on, and the five members just started acting, without any sort of planning or discussion. Around intermission, I realized that every day I put my students in the same position as the comedy troupe. I yell a question out to them, and expect that all hands will shoot up in the air to give me the correct answer, just like the audience expects the troupe to immediately come up with a funny sketch.

But my student’s hands don’t all go up in the air. So I start randomly calling on students, and I can see the fear in some student’s eyes as they silently beg me not to call on them. My students are scared to take risks and are even more terrified of being wrong. The improv actors were funny last night because they weren’t scared of being wrong. Ok, I’ll admit there is no such thing as a wrong answer in comedy, but I don’t think they even cared if we laughed or not. The troupe was just up there doing their thing without fear of vulnerability or being ridiculed.

I need to figure out how to build this attitude and sense of confidence in my math class. I want my students to persevere in problem solving because they know that it is ok to make a mistake, and the mistake may lead them to the right answer. I want my students to know that there are multiple ways to solve a problem, so their answer might not look like their partners, and that is just fine. But our education system emphasizes multiple-choice questions, where there is only one right answer, and the way that you got to the answer does not matter. Within this confining system, it is hard to teach my students to enjoy the process of solving a problem; just like the improv actors enjoyed the sketch without worrying about the outcome.

Classroom culture is the key. I had a great time at the C2C improv class. But during last night’s show, I kept thinking how glad I was to be in the audience and not on the stage. At the improv class, on the other hand, I felt comfortable. I knew that everyone would support me and my partner would build upon my illogical ideas. Starting Monday, I am going to work on building a strong, enthusiastic and supportive classroom culture, where risks, mistakes, vulnerability, and impracticality are all encouraged.

But, I have a question for all the health care providers and health educators out there. How do you create a sense of trust and support when talking about something even more personal than math: health and the body? Even more, how do you do this when you don’t have the privilege to interact with your patients or students every day?

-Rachel Hollingsworth, 2011 TFA Corps Member

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Which 49% of Your Students Won't Graduate?

Today Logan, my Emory partner, came in for his weekly observation. During a lull, he asked if I’d heard the statistic that only 51% of students in Atlanta Public Schools graduate from high school. He was shocked by this statistic- and rightly so. However, this is a statistic that we teachers hear almost daily, so I wasn’t at all taken aback by it. After he left, I started thinking about the difference in our reactions. It’s not that I’ve gotten complacent, but facts like that don’t have the same impact on me that they used to. The problem is, they should! As I look at my 19 first graders, there is no way I would want to pick 9-10 students who not only won’t go to college, but won’t even graduate high school. Unfortunately, that is what the statistics say will happen.

At this point in the year, teachers are exhausted. We are inundated with data to remind us of previous years’ failures; we are realizing that we are behind on our curriculum maps just over a month before state testing; and our students are at least as burnt out as we are. Long story short, it can be easy to get caught up in the day to day work and forget about what really brought us into the classroom in the first place. We don’t teach just so students can learn the state standards. We teach, because we want to set our students up for success- not just on their weekly assessments or state tests, but throughout their academic careers and beyond. We teach, because we want to shape our students as people and have a positive and lasting impact on their life’s trajectory. We teach, because a 51% graduation rate is unacceptable.

I am so grateful that there is a fresh pair of eyes in my classroom, another person who is invested in my students’ education. A 51% high school graduation rate is absolutely unacceptable and should be infuriating each time I hear it. With just over 10 weeks left in the school year, it is more important than ever that I put the conscious effort in every day to ensure that I am preparing my students for success, not just next year, but throughout their entire academic careers. My students deserve better than 51%, and I owe it to them to give that to them.
-Jenny Drucker

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The day there were no subs...

I expected last Wednesday in Rachel's class to start out like the others, with the kids streaming in, saying hello, and sitting down to start their 'Do Now'. But Wednesday would be the day that I really saw an issue that teachers all over the country face. I happened to meet Rachel at the front entrance, and the first statement she had for me was a warning: "Today is going to be crazy, I'm really sorry". Turns out two teachers were out sick, and no substitutes were able to come out to Freedom, so Rachel had 16 extra students in both her afternoon classes. I watched, stunned, as kids filed in, those who were supposed to be in that period sitting in their desks, while others sat on the floor or along a low wall in the back of the classroom. Needless to say, they acted out. And who could blame them? Imagine yourself at 12, your day is scheduled a very specific way, and suddenly you get into class at 8:00am and your teacher isn't there. This means you're sitting on the floor of a classroom you don't belong in, and you have to come back in 3 hours. How do you hold them accountable for being disruptive? What else are they going to do, knowing that they'll be learning the same thing later in the day? I have to say that I was stressed out after only being there a few hours, and this is something that happens every other week. You can be an incredible teacher, and plan great, interactive lessons, and you still have to struggle with these issues. 

And I can't help but wonder, are subs so hard to find because this is a lower-income area? Do subs not want to deal with kids that test teachers and have larger problems they deal with daily than a bad grade? I'm sure that's not entirely fair, nor entirely accurate, but what do you think? How can we work, as professionals outside of the teaching world, to get classes covered for sick teachers? Do we need better pay/incentives for subs or within certain districts? Do we finally tackle the overcrowding issue at a national level? Rachel had too many kids in her classroom for half a year before it was taken care of, does that speak to a need for more changes? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

This week in C2C, as well as in my Curriculum & Instruction class, I learned about the different ways in which people learn.  It was informative to hear what I learned in my Curriculum class re-iterated by thee TFA teachers and exemplified in their different classroom settings.  They took a typical lesson plan about asthma as a health topic and adopted it to the different age groups and populations they teach.  It was fascinating to hear what types of instruction worked best for different types of students. For instance, an interactive class activity involving physical exercise may work effectively in a 6th grade class.  However, incorporating physical exercise in a lesson plan for adults may not work nearly as well.  In fact, you may risk losing student interest as a result!

What resonated particularly for me was understanding how to adapt different learning styles and strategies into a lesson plan, as well as how to combine content-based learning with skill acquisition and development.  I couldn't help but imagine a mosaic in my mind.  An educator is a scientific artist using a lesson plan to craft something beautiful for the benefit of learning minds.  Such a person must be able to teach a student content about asthma, for instance, but also must think of ways to teach a skill, such as group cooperation, or note-taking or reading comprehension.  I can only imagine the amount of creativity, thought and long-term planning must go into each lesson plan.

Then I thought about my own relationship with education and the types of learning I had been exposed to over the course of my life.  My thoughts specifically went back in time to when I was a secondary school student in Nigeria.  Learning takes on a very different form in this part of the world.  Resources to teach students were quite minimal, especially in government schools, which was the type of school I attended.  Classes, even at an early age, were seminar-style.  Students were assigned a particular classroom, and teachers cycled through.  There were no extra resources to engage in activities.  Education was reading, writing, and regurgitation intensive.  It seemed teachers were not taught to incorporate experiential learning into lesson planning.  Learning was very content-heavy.  While all this may seem bleak, to be truthful, Nigerian students all over the world excel by leaps and bounds in other educational systems, as we have become accustomed to some of the most disciplined and rigorous forms of learning.  And I have had the privilege of navigating both worlds - figuratively and literally.

(Oh! And I hope you like my word cloud! I designed it myself on by word-farting the 100 words that popped into my head, using education as a theme! Too fun!)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Full of surprises

I am helping out in Ms. Daniel’s 6th grade Earth Science class this semester. Ms. Daniel teaches at Woodland Middle School in East Point, GA. I can already tell that my experience at Woodland is going to be full of surprises. This past week I started interacting with the students by helping them with an in-class activity that involved searching for answers on the Internet. The students were given laptops and instructions for how to get to the websites where they could find answers to the questions. I helped out by walking around the room to make sure students weren’t straying from the websites they were allowed to be on and by answering questions they had.

Most of the students I helped only needed assistance in navigating to the correct websites. They may have had a typo in the URL or had missed a phrase. A few needed guidance in finding the answers on the webpages, but for the most part they knew what they were doing. There has been something that has surprised me every time I have observed in Ms. Daniel’s class so far (and I’m sure it will continue to happen). Almost every instance where I helped a student, he or she said “Thank you” to me. There was even one boy who said, “Yes ma’am” after I asked him a question. I was blown away by how polite these students were. I interact with adults on a daily basis who are not as polite as these children are. Even though the students come from disadvantaged backgrounds they still recognize the importance of being polite and respectful when someone who cares about them helps them. I can already say that I care about each and every one of the students that I have been given the privilege to work with.

There is one more surprise I would like to share. Before class started a student named John walked in and upon seeing Ms. Daniel said, “Ms. Daniel! I missed you!” and gave her a hug (she had not been in school the day before). He then looked at me, walked over, and said, “Hello. I don’t think we’ve met. What’s your name?” He then extended his hand in order to shake mine. He said he didn’t recognize me and I told him I would be helping out every Tuesday for the rest of the year and eventually teaching the class about health. He then went to his seat and got ready for class. After the class was over and before he left the room, he turned to me and said, “Have a good day! See you later!” What surprises have you experienced so far?


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Complex Realities

The first time I went to visit Ms. Drucker’s first grade classroom, students were turning in a project where they had to research and present on an inventor, describing why a specific invention is important in our lives today. A student named Kimmie was chosen first to present her project, and she was so proud when Ms. Drucker asked her to share her project with the class. As Kimmie walked to the front of the room, stood on the little green step stool with her project, and struggled to find the words to describe her inventor, I felt my eyes beginning to well with tears - it was the oddest (and potentially most embarrassing) thing. I think part of it was that I was visiting the school the Monday after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, and I had that on my mind while sitting among these 17 first graders in Ms. Drucker’s classroom. The other part of it was seeing how proud of herself Kimmie was. Kimmie, a small African American girl, was wearing big glasses and disheveled clothing on this particular day. As she struggled to describe what inventor she had researched for her project, I felt bothered because I began to think about the injustice in Kimmie’s life: Why was she born into this situation? What is her home environment like? Why doesn’t she have clean clothes to wear? Does she get enough food at home? Is she taking care of younger siblings? Will she soon be bullied in school for being the ‘smart kid’, the one with big glasses who succeeds in her academic pursuits? Will her educational success be stifled by the cruelty of other kids? I couldn’t help but think of all these things and fear for her future; with so much potential, how can there be the possibility that all of it will go to waste? I finally stopped my mind from wandering through the intricacies of Kimmie’s life and pulled it together, realizing that Mr. Kirsch would look like an absolute fool with tears running down his face shortly after meeting all these 7-year-old strangers. These complex questions and uncomfortable feelings, however, are things that I am sure won’t easily escape my mind throughout this semester… Has anyone else been experiencing something similar?

-Logan Kirsch

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Aching Reminder

As the TFA Corps members explained the severity of the Achievement Gap during the first week of C2C, I imagined tackling such a grand societal problem. I began to wonder whether everyone in the room actually believed the achievement gap and health disparity gap could be closed. Immediately, I realized the answer: Yes, they truly do. Each person in the room, including myself, be it hopefully or idealistic, believed that the achievement gap could be closed and health disparities eliminated.

It occurred to me how fortunate we are to be surrounded by such dedicated and motivating colleagues because both the achievement gap and stark health disparities remain pervasive. In fact, it is likely neither can be completely addressed without solving the other. Being in Molly’s classroom was an aching reminder of the health disparities already manifesting in students by the first grade.

Many children arrive at school smelling like tobacco or marijuana smoke, meaning students are likely exposed to other drugs without detectable odors to linger on students’ clothing. Hunger and nutrition are also urgent problems, as many students only consistently eat two meals a day on the days the school provides breakfast and lunch. Several of Molly’s students have vision issues, but cannot afford glasses or the problem remains undiagnosed. Finally, the cold and flu present issues for Molly’s classroom. Often, children cannot stay home because their parents have no sick days so, they come to school sick, spread illnesses, and remain sick for an extended period of time because they lack access to doctors.

However, in my first brief visits to her classroom, these health issues remained invisible to me. Extended time with her students allowed Molly to recognize such prevalent, often hidden health issues. Surely, a public health professional visiting may initially miss these issues. Thus, the importance of partnership between TFA and RSPH that C2C fosters became very clear to me

To my fellow C2C participants, what health issues have you noticed in your classroom and how do they inform the discussion on health disparities perpetuating the achievement gap? To my public health peers, how apparent were these health issues in your early visits to your classroom?

- Sara Millimet

I understand why people want to become teachers

On Thursday, I went Bethune Middle School to shadow my Teach for America partner, Nina, in her science class.  The aim of my visitation that day was to interact with the students, as they completed a science project on animal classifications.  I made sure to arrive early to assuage my slight anxiety.  As I approach the classroom, I take a deep breath, and Nina ushers me in.  It’s on.  I immediately notice all the bewildered pairs of eyes that outrightly stare at me in curiosity.  Just like Nina informed me in an earlier meeting, most of the children are African-American.  I take a seat at the back of the class.  A few of the students sitting at the back of the class talk rather loudly as Nina teaches.  While at first, I am taken aback at the seemingly blatant disrespect for the presence of an authority figure at the front of the class, I recall my days as a middle-schooler and how there was always one or two students who caused class disturbances.  A female student who later tells me unenthusiastically that I’m pretty stands up and kicks her chair as if in attempts to break it.  She kicks the chair repeatedly nearly across the room and then exchanges her chair for another.  Nina pauses the class momentarily to address the girl.  I wonder to myself how I would manage the scenario when I begin to actually teach a portion of Nina’s class.  As I consume myself with the thought, another female student tries to get my attention. “Pssst,  pssst.  Excuse me.  Hey.  Are you married?”  I chuckle to myself and motion for her to pay attention to Nina.

Nina gives the instructions for the class activity and project and the students begin to busy themselves.  Papers, books and coloured pencils everywhere.  I make my rounds to engage with as many students as possible by asking them questions about their assignment.  As I continue to interact with the students, I realize why people become teachers.  These children are bright, and wildly hilarious.  The job understandably comes with its frustrations – telling a student over and over to sit down cannot be enjoyable.  However, I see the moments, the potential that stirs in the room, and the desire of the students to get homework right, the desire to learn.  As I left Nina’s classroom, I was reminded of why people teach.  No child deserves anything less than the best education to inspire within them a will to pursue whatever it is their hearts desire.  

I cannot wait for next week!

- Uduak

Monday, January 28, 2013

Improv: nightmare or opportunity? Mindset decides

Perspective is everything. Victor Frankl, survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, once wrote "The last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances." Like attitude, we too are able to choose our mindset. Our mindsets color the lens through which we view the world, ourselves, and others and governs how we relate to each other and accomplish tasks. The book Mindset and our discussion on Thursday challenged us to look at failure not as a lack in ability but rather as an opportunity for growth.

Back in November when C2C applications came out, I remember thinking, "How cool! But that's definitely not for me," and I deleted the email. My fixed mindset told me that I didn't have the skills necessary. Being described as "painfully shy," my mind goes blank when I talk--making verbal communication anything but my forte. However, as a future pediatric nurse, education is critical for healthy child outcomes and depends on excellent verbal communication. Determined to excel in nursing, I had to adopt the growth-mindset in order to enable myself to work on this weakness—meaning that C2C was most definitely for me. C2C provided an opportunity right off the bat through improv.

Improv--Thinking on the spur of the moment, being spontaneous, not planning your next word—my biggest nightmare. Literally. But I knew I had to change my mindset. Not an impending disaster—unique opportunity to grow….some (namely me) more than others. End result? Lots of laughter and unique way to get to know each other better. Awkward human configurations of BLT sandwiches and confidence that we can solve any possible crisis with any one item, even a cow femur. After class, a friend asked “How’d you do?” I responded, “It doesn’t matter. It’s part of the growing process.”   And it was.

- Lauren Head, Woodruff School of Nursing

Thursday, January 24, 2013

C2C: What we wish we'd said the first night

We had our first session of Classroom to Community last week. It was great to meet all the new pairs and to see them start to connect with each other. Audra gave me a big hug as we put everything in my car after the session: “Back in the saddle again. Feels great.” I couldn’t have agreed more. For me, C2C is the uncontested highlight of my spring semester.

As usual for the first night of class, Audra and I probably talked too much. It’s the requisite information dump of here’s what you need to do and when and why and how. What I wanted to tell my Emory students was instead this:

Being in the classroom with these kids will change you forever. You will feel your heart warm with each smile, each high five, each time you help a child learn even the smallest thing. You will walk taller because you made an eight-year-old’s face light up by walking into the room. You will take these kids home with you in your heart and wonder about them when you go to sleep at night. You will wonder if they had a warm breakfast like you or if they got a hug when they left the house. You will wonder if they spent the night taking care of a sick little brother and if they had time to do homework. You will wonder if they took their medication or if they ran out and couldn’t afford more. You will hope that someone said, “I love you.”

In these first few weeks especially, you will spend a lot of time being outraged at the injustice and inequality. You will feel a lump in your throat when you actually see firsthand the health disparities you’ve mostly only read about. You will often feel helpless. You may be temped to cut your own classes and spend more time in the classroom. Some of you will want to quit health altogether and go teach.

For each of you, let the lump in your throat remind you of how much your health expertise is desperately needed in the communities in which “your kids” live. Remember that though each child is unique, there are thousands across the country living in the same conditions. Think about the leadership role you will play in making a difference because you actually get it.

For our Teach For America partners – Audra and I have been there too, seeing our kids struggle with physical and mental health issues, yet feeling powerless and inept to deal with them. Engage your Emory partner in these conversations – have him help you find community health resources for your kids and parents. Work with her on creating the health lessons your kids need on topics you know little about. Please come to see all of us at Emory as your go-to health resource. We are here for you, but we're also here with you. Audra and I certainly wish we’d had the same.

Tonight’s lesson is about mindset and its role in teaching and learning. We’ll conclude with an exciting improv workshop to help learn how to “wear your teacher pants” and also to build community in our group. Both are an experiment and we look forward to seeing how it turns out. I am always appreciative of everyone’s willingness to play along and try new things. 

-- Ariela

(Photos: Ms. Bryson's fabulous 6th graders)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

C2C what a great opportunity!

Last week, C2C met for the first time and it was a great experience. I admired how Emory students and their partners got along, and the introduction of the class predicted we are going to have a great experience. Personally, I thought I’d enrolled in too many courses and I was wondering how I was going to manage all these readings, homework, labs quizzes, and exams.

Before the first day I thought C2C would be another course and it would add to my school workload. Today, reading “mindset” (I have to admit I haven’t read all of it yet) and after I listened to our TFA partners talking about their students and their experiences at school, I found myself switching my mindset. Here is how: last semester I was focusing on my grades and I had bad day whenever I didn’t get the grade I expected (which was not due to a fixed mindset because I’ve always believe a person can learn and improve). This semester, I am focusing on how much I am learning and how much I am giving to other outside of school.

As a public health student I think being involved with TFA will help me to achieve the primary goal of my field of study which is learn, share, and help improve the world. I am looking forward to visiting my partner’s class on Friday. 

By Fodie Maguiraga

1st year Global Health student, Rollins School of Public Health