Each semester, AmeriCorps’ Project MARS collects “Great Stories” from its members in which they reflect on their experiences mentoring in the classroom and the progress they see students making. This month’s story comes from Rachel Boyle.
I was assigned to cover a fourth-grade lunch once a week. Since I am focused in the fifth through eighth grades at ArtSpace Charter, I don’t get much time with the younger grades. Coming in to cover fourth-grade lunch a quarter of the way into the school year was a reset for me to get myself comfortable with the kids quickly so it would be a nice transition for all.
For the first two or three weeks it was rough. Even before I learned their names, I felt like all I was doing was telling kids to stay seated, to lower their voices and to stop whatever trouble they were trying to do.
The fourth week I wanted it to be different. I was tired of raising my voice. The fourth week was like the rest. They started out rowdy and energetic. When they started getting too loud, I started to walk around the room telling a story at almost a whisper level about when I was little. Eventually some students around the room started catching on what I was doing and tried to listen to the story. More and more students each minute lowered their voices, trying to tune in to the quiet story I was sharing.
Eventually the whole room was silent. I sat in a chair whispering my story as the students started cleaning their lunches quietly and coming to my feet. It was such a simple way to connect and get them to listen. Instead of reprimanding them, I opened up.
Every week now they show extreme excitement about me coming to cover their lunch, and I share that excitement too.