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.