Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 5

Today we started off our morning with a little pump up music and the promise of another rewarding day at Allapata Middle School and Dunbar Elementary School. I found myself thinking of how this was going to be our last full day of service on the trip. I began to wonder how the trip had gone by so quickly. But I didn’t really have time to continue my thoughts because we had arrived at Allapata Middle School. After dropping off the lunch in the correct classroom we began our daily “firing up” exercises on the basketball courts with the city year staff, where we learned a new exercise. This new move consisted of lunges, spirit, and a lot of weird clapping. Soon after our group began to take on our first task of the day: painting the courtyard area in off-white. Weused a combination of rollers and smaller paint brushes to cover every last inch of the walls. After an hour or two of painting, parts of our group started to paint some of the murals that had been stenciled onto the wall, while others began to stencil words such as: persevere, imagine, and create onto the pillars of the courtyard. As I was stenciling the word “persevere” onto the wall, I began to picture future students walking through the courtyard. I wondered if they would notice the words that had once been painted onto the pillars by a bunch of college students, or if these words would simply blend into the background like I imagine the previously cracked paint and faded messages once did. I then thought of how I used to feel inspired by a poster from my high school that read “perseverance is one of the biggest keys to success.” This poster used to make me feel motivated every time I passed it, no matter how bad a mood I was in.

After lunch, we watched a film called Waiting for Superman. This film taught us of the many flaws in America’s education system including: bad teachers, lack of funding, tenure, the lottery system for entry into certain schools, and the tangled web of the federal government’s ideas of a good educational system versus the state. When discussing the film with the group, I think a lot of us were shocked by how complicated the educational system of America had become. For instance, a child could fail a test in one state, but he/she could then drive down an hour to another state and take the same test, and their score would be considered a passing grade! Signals were clearly very mixed up between states concerning the fundamental standards of passing versus failing. Another idea that struck me was that a child could be stuck in a horrible public school, simply because they lived in a bad neighborhood. Furthermore, they could potentially have the chance to switch to a better public school or charter school; however, 1000 kids could be applying to a school like that when there are only 100 spots available! So these kids’ entire futures could be riding on one lottery number. I found this to be completely baffling.

Nonetheless, we continued to Dunbar Elementary School after the movie and were instructed to lead the class that we had been working with in a few field games. My group played a few basic games including toilet tag, the human knot, and leap frog. One moment that stood out to me was when we decided to join the kids in creating a human knot of arm and legs. The kids were able to free themselves of the knot in a matter of seconds, but once the bigger college kids got involved, the whole game got a lot trickier. It took us several minutes to untangle ourselves from the knot, and when we did, for some reason we ended up with two separate groups (which is not supposed to happen) and all the college kids were like “oops something must have gotten messed up.” But the kids had a completely different reaction; they thought they had done something extra special that had led us to make not only once circle but two. They were so pleased with themselves that they were high fiving each other and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to tell them that it was in fact a mistake, since they seemed to be so proud of themselves.

It was hard saying goodbye to the kids I had worked with at the end of the day, but despite my sadness, I feel pleased that I was able to connect with these kids on a pretty deep level, even if I had only known them for three days. I was reminded of how younger children are so willing to share things about themselves and how interested and curious they are to learn about others as well. All in all, it was another tiring, but mostly satisfying day in Miami.

Katie Shepard, University of Binghamton

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