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