“Where ya at? Where ya at?” a chorus of high energy 3rd graders filled every inch of the room with their voices. A dozen young minds eager to learn but so easily distracted by the tiniest change in the air.
‘Did someone whisper?’
‘Where did the whisper go?’
‘Who was it for?’
‘Would Ms. Rae like a pillow?’
‘Maybe writing on the board will make her happy?’
‘Oh a feather!’
The typical session with this crew always felt like a battlefield. Despite my attempts to make each story sound like an epic adventure film, I was constantly tasked with trying to cut through the noise in their own minds. But today, today was different, because Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews was pulsating with the heart of New Orleans. A town known for it’s come one and come all lively celebrations. This book demanded we celebrate life at the top of our lungs, even if it was just reading along with Ms. Rae and crying out, “Where ya at? Where ya at?”
Kids are always listening.
You hope to make a connection at every school you visit. Most of the kids you will never see again, but you hope to have sparked an interest in learning.
As a teaching artist, I craved more moments like this. More invitations to bring stories to life, to dance in our own Mardi Gras parade and limbo throughout the classroom. Teaching diversity, community, and kindness did not have to be boring. The 4th graders had long stopped showing up to book club once options like basketball and chess arose. Kids will surprise you however. The same kids who were killing it on the court 10 minutes ago, quietly creep during the last 15 minutes of book club asking if they can look at the book you read earlier. Curious about the story and eager to digest it so that they can join in on whatever game you are playing.
Kids are always listening.
You hope to make a connection at every school you visit. Most of the kids you will never see again, but you hope to have sparked an interest in learning. You hope that whether it’s 10 weeks or 14 weeks you are inspiring the next generation to become unstoppable—that you help fuel a fire for goals bigger than anyone else could have imagined.
How do you know you’re on the right path? How do you know you have come close to making a difference? Are you delusional? Will you have to rely on your ego to carry you from classroom to classroom year after year? You could… or you could listen. Listen for that moment when change has reached your doorstep. You’ll find an ember burning when a kid who used to be very shy excitedly greets you and tells you about their day at school, the same way they would casually tell any friend. You’ll see that the room is ablaze when a group of 4th graders (some who would sleep during your visits) proudly display face mask they made based off Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, a book you read weeks ago. Those kids, the ones you swore weren’t listening, loved the book so much they asked their classroom teacher to find more by the author. You will know you are on the right path when the students are teaching you.