by Annemarie Stockton, AmeriCorps member serving with Channing Elementary School

B.B. King once said, “The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it away from you.” As I’ve gone through my own education and continue to learn each day, this quote has always floated around the back of my mind. It’s also a major reason why I sent in my City Year application. Fast forward 10 months and it's something that has been very relevant in my service with a particular 4th-grader every single day. Abby* is a charismatic, brilliant, hilarious student of mine who is endlessly passionate about art. When I encourage her to put away the markers and do her work, she counters with an “I don’t care,” “whatever,” or the infamous “You’re not my mom.”  

There was one particular day where Abby clearly had enough. She was exasperated with her work, teacher, and classmates and the pressure was so high that she broke down into quiet sobs. Having seen all of the frustration brewing below the surface, I was ready to take Abby out of the class to have a discussion. After asking the typical questions that all adults ask children when there’s a problem, I decided to approach the situation from a different angle.  

Remembering what B.B. King said, I asked Abby what her dreams were.  

“To go to college, I guess,” she shrugged. “To be an artist.”  

We then mapped out a plan for her to reach her goals, beginning with her next essay and ending with art school. I pointed out to her how lucky she is to have all of the skills she has and that each day is opportunity to better those skills. We agreed that education and learning is the most important thing we have in our lives because no one can take that away from us.  

Being on the same page when it comes to learning has reinforced our bond. Even when we have our struggles, talking about the future and our goals brings us to the same level, creating a space where Abby feels motivated on her own to succeed. Now when I see Abby struggling with motivation, I whisper to her, “What’s the most important thing for you?” And when she replies, “my learning,” I know she now holds the key to her own success.  

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