By Rebecca Kropp, AmeriCorps member serving on the Advent International team with Condon K-6 School
The last 15 minutes of my day in the classroom could appear to be nothing short of chaotic to someone who didn’t know my class but my partner teacher and I make a strong effort to have it be organized and productive. At 2:00, right before dismissal, I sit at the tables in the back of the classroom and invite students to come start their homework while I work on grading papers.
At first I had to ask specific students who my teacher and I thought could use help or a head start on their homework, but now a few months into this routine there isn't enough room at the table for everyone who wants help. There is definitely a social aspect of doing your homework at the back table but it is also a time where they can ask questions and they often end up helping each other since there are usually at least six of them and only one of me. This arrangement gives me the opportunity to support the whole class not just my focus list students, and to be a resource to all students. Completion, quality and accuracy of homework have all gone up due to this routine. Getting started and asking questions has really boosted their confidence not only on their homework but I would say in helping each other and in their other class work during the school day.
One student in particular, Alyssa*, went through a phase in which she rejected my help.
“Miss Rebecca, can I got back to my seat? I understand this. I don’t need help,” she said to me defensively one morning when I had pulled her to correct the previous night's homework. This wasn’t the first time she expressed she didn’t want to work with me but it was the first time she verbalized it to me.
“Actually you missed a couple problems so we are going to redo them together to make sure they you can do them correctly on tonight’s homework," I said.
“But I know how to do it! Can I please go back to my seat?” She pleaded as she glanced around the room. Later that day I asked her what was going on and her offered some compromises, she promised that she would always show her work, we agreed we would only work together one on one if I told her ahead of time and my teacher and I made an effort mixed up some of the groups we usually worked with in class so she could work with her friends sometimes. I also gave her space in the classroom, if she got problems on the homework wrong I would give it back to her to correct with a written note to “remember to show her work!” Even though she promised me she would do that in the first place, but she always went back and made corrections.
She was hesitant about getting help on her homework at the end of the day and even though her friends would come back everyday and she wouldn't. After a couple of weeks she started joining us at the table and is now back there everyday and even joins me voluntarily during the school day when I host a work station. Recently she has shown improvement in her homework and continued to score well above the network average on our standardized tests and she is starting to be able to pick out her own mistakes and make corrections without constant guidance from me.
Working with students like Alyssa has reminded me that people will only accept help when they are ready for it and that happens at a different pace for everyone. I grew a lot in navigating this situation with Alyssa, reminding myself daily to be patient and adjust my style to be able to accommodate her needs as she grew. Alyssa and I were able to meet in the middle and strengthened our relationship as a result. We were able to build trust and learned to work with each other in a way that works for both of us. It is interactions and relationships like ours that are learning experiences for my students and also for myself that make me so excited to serve another year with City Year Boston in 2016-2017 as a team leader.
*Name changed to protect student privacy