Written by Mia Ruffin, AmeriCorps member serving on the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation Team at Winbourne Elementary School.
If you are reading this blog, you are more than aware of a few things. You have probably been versed in a number of the disparities in the public school system. By chance, you have felt responsibility or concern for the country’s youth, their depth of knowledge and their career choices. A few statistics may have reminded you of a favorite teacher or compassionate mentor. Familiar motifs of a student’s days are considered priorities and points of strategy.
Consistent attendance is one of City Year’s most recognizable measures of impact. CYBR has AmeriCorps members in service to promote daily attendance. The energy in our classrooms are affected by the addition of a new student or the absence of another. Classroom discussions are swayed by each child’s experiences, curiosities and impulses. Lesson plans are made from the results of the students that made it to school on test day. Joys and ripples highlight what student said what when, but can only happen when students are where they need to be: school.
I want this blog entry to be an exercise of refreshment, of appreciation. In the midst of all the facts and stats we could read about the state of the school system, there is joy. There are teachers and students in the corps members classrooms at Winbourne Elementary with a mindfulness for presence. Our team has been given the lucky chance to capture their idealism through our year of service.
Miss Leah and her student are ready to celebrate his attendance victories.
In our first nine weeks Miss Emily, our attendance and behavior corps member, spearheaded two attendance celebrations. The first celebration marked the end of an attendance competition for the month of September. Second grade had the highest attendance more days than any other grade, and were given an afternoon cookie and hula-hoop party. Between dancing and coloring, each class said that they understood coming to school everyday meant more parties in the future.
A week after the attendance party, I visited Ms. Woolfolk’s second grade class. They were just as cute as you would imagine a group of hardworking, focused seven and eight year olds. They worked quietly. When they did speak, it was to assist Ms. Woolfolk or their peers. The kids moved with purpose and concern, towards the completion of their worksheets and journals. A few saw my City Year sweater and said how much fun the party had been, then returned to their work. They did not need a party but had deserved one. Their time at school was valuable, as was their attendance.
The Winbourne team boogies at the Attendance party.
The second party was to honor perfect attendance throughout the grades. Each grade’s attendees shared sweets and time on the dance floor. The first graders danced in a big circle; the fifth graders naturally moved in their prepubescent, socially decided groups. The constants between each grade were smiles and self-appreciation. I asked a few of my team members to take a picture with a student of theirs at the party. I asked each of the students how the success of perfect attendance would affect their success as adults. Perfect attendance meant a chance to learn more. It meant more chances to play with friends that live across the city. It meant that a high five was waiting for them every morning. It meant a cool science career when school was done. It meant that siblings would also see the importance of school.
Recognition of goodwill is the machine behind all of this. None of this would have been possible without the support of Winbourne Elementary’s administration, faculty and staff. To be at a school that sees attendance as both a reason to smile and a rudimentary part of education is exceptional. To be a member of an organization that is determined to maximize the number of our community's kids to complete school is important. Facts and stats are necessary. They can alert, predict and solidify life. Refreshingly, moments of delight and regard bring joy to life.