March 15: Loving high schoolers

For about 2 months, I've been working with about 30 volunteers from our community to support struggling high school readers. For the record, I'm a K-3 person (give me a picture book read aloud any day), and my own kids are 14 and 16, so I'm thick into raising teens (but my no means an expert at raisin' 'em or teaching them!).

Yet because I care about our community's kids and saw an opportunity to step-up and do something, I worked hard to get buy-in from teachers to let us try something, created a program (based on the *amazing* and free resource, Word Generation), trained the 30 folks in our community who signed up to help, and hustled like HECK to get kids there (bribes of pizza and Subway; calls home; notes to their 9th period class; text & email reminders and last but not least, walking the hallways and luring them in!).

So here's the thing: I ended up adoring these kids. They all struggled with our state's assessment as freshman, and yet -- they have such strong personalities, it was easy to identify a "hook" to connect with them, and their energy (once fed) was so upbeat. Yes, there were times when a kid was oh-so tired, and oh-so did not feel like coming to tutoring. Once when that happened, I looked the kid right in the eye and said, "OK, so you're tired. If you're too tired to come to tutoring, just say it to me. 'Mrs. V, I'm too tired to come today.' And I'll give you a high five and remind you to come on Wednesday. But if you can rally, we want you here. What do you think?" And he dragged-dragged-dragged himself in, and I set-up him with a rock star tutor (frankly, so many of them were rock stars, that was easy) and brought over a brownie and he, well, he rallied. Another girl was super distracted by boys (or, to be more precise, by flirting with boys). She would always end up in the hallway by the library at 3:55, giggling & shoulder touching & being enchanting, as only 16 year old girls can do, and I'd pop my head out and say "Miss K, you are welcome to come in, we are here with Rolos (her favorite candy), but you must come in now and not delay...". I think she put herself near that library at 3:55 (we are big building; there are plenty of ways to NOT be near me at 4:00, when tutoring starts), and wanted to be wanted. Instead of seeing tutoring as a burden, we were a little club and my teasing to bring her in helped make it even more exclusive. Lucky us!

I shout out teachers who hang with high schoolers all day. My tiny project is nothing like bringing positive energy, strong/engaging/relevant curriculum, and a repertoire of management skills living in that "warm demander" space for hours all day. In fact, I think I need to hang with one of these teachers for a day and build my chops, so I can continue to bring a good game. We've decided to have another go at the program in April -- 8 sessions on poetry -- who has ideas for me??!!

Books for Give-Away our last 2 sessions:          

The chart where kids (yellow cards) would match-up with adults (white cards) at every session:

The squad -- partnerships in action (and some posing, too!):