It has always been a hobby of mine to goof around with the kids in my life. From cousins and nieces to neighbors and nearby afterschool programs, I've always felt like I'm doing something worth my time if I'm making a kid smile and laugh. Before Citizen Schools I never thought that sort of attitude could be applied to teaching in a classroom. It seemed too stuffy, too formal. Too far outside my realm of silly expertise. Because, before I found Citizen Schools, what mattered to me was that a kid felt safe and loved and, therefore, had a fun day.
Now I spend every day working in the "second shift" of education. I spend a great deal of my time figuring out fun and engaging ways to help an extremely bright group of eighth graders learn new and complex ideas. These aren't usually the same lessons they learn during the traditional school day. Yes, we have math lessons and talk about algebra and variables and exponents and factoring trinomials, but we also have College and Career Connections (C3) lessons where my students spent the entire fall semester perfecting handshakes and introducing themselves, creating resumes from the wide array of experiences they've had in Citizen Schools, and thinking critically about the effect networking can play in their soon-to-be-high-schooler lives. Citizen Schools provides an outlet for kids to be kids while learning the basic skills that define adulthood and personal success. Our students are encouraged to use their communication skills to work through minor arguments and to find support among their teammates when they're struggling with a class or specific skill. My goal is to leave my students with the knowledge and confidence that they can achieve absolutely any goal with hard work and perseverance. That comes with making sure my kids smile each day and hear praise for their commitment and hard work.
As adults, we have all heard -- and if you're reading this, maybe thought out loud -- about the great divide in our American public school system. Maybe you have a friend or family member working with Teach for America or at a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) School. This isn't an isolated movement. Our country is at a crucial crossroad and every second counts because the time that is wasted is one more child's loss of hope in their future opportunities. We need educators that care and are effective in our classrooms. We need our nation's children to spend less time in front of a television and more time with positive role models, more time learning something challenging and entirely new, more time with one-on-one help in a classroom. We need to think outside the box for solutions to the crisis of the traditional school day.
We can all do more to help, but the way I'm starting is in our second shift. And one way you can help me is to donate to Citizens for Citizen Schools. Our non-profit has the potential to really transform the content and structure of America's schools. I am already seeing it at work in the lives of some amazing and completely worthy young people. I can't wait to see what they'll do with the extra support and confidence they have developed in Citizen Schools.