By: Jackie Trexler, City Year AmeriCorps Member serving on the Gossler Park Elementary School Team Supported By Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Lincoln Financial Foundation
Do you remember your first day of fourth grade? You walk into your classroom and are bombarded by a manifold of colors, loud and excited voices, new faces everywhere you look, and a tall, imposing figure of authority--your teacher--seemingly magically gaining control of the chaotic room. You’re eager, you’re excited, but you’re also nervously wondering: “how am I ever going to make it through this year?” That’s what walking into a fourth grade classroom felt like to me this year, and I’m a 22-year-old college graduate. Let me tell you about my first week of fourth grade as a City Year corps member.
My job the first few weeks of class was fairly simple: get to know the classroom and the students. The teacher's plan for first day of class made this part easy on me since the entire day was spent going over rules, expectations, more rules, and more expectations. Fourth graders need a LOT of structure. There were so many things to absorb all at once that I knew I was bound to make a mistake and unintentionally break a rule at some point. If the students in my class ever forget about something they’re supposed to be doing in the future, I can now relate. We also spent time getting to know each other, and the students got to reconnect with old classmates and teachers. Pretty quickly, I felt like I belonged in this classroom. By the second day, the students were already running up to me in the morning and giving me hugs--they were so excited to see me, my partner teacher, and their classmates each day. Even though the school year has just started, I know that already, I matter in these students’ lives.
Walking into school the first day was hard for me, but it was also hard for my students. I've come to realize that none of us are completely confident in ourselves. These young students might not know yet how to spell “ninety thousand”; I might not know yet how to explain long division in a way for a particular student to understand, or how another student might receive feedback best. Nobody walks into fourth grade already knowing everything they’re going to be taught that year. Similarly, nobody walks into City Year completely prepared for every challenge and every situation we’re going to encounter. Walking in to the classroom on my first day, I knew I was going to be just as much a student to my fourth graders as they are going to be to me.