Minta, Powerful Schools’ new Development Specialist, shares her impressions of visiting a Powerful Schools site for the first time this month.
With a few weeks under my belt here at Powerful Schools, I was eager to delve deeper into what we do. How exactly does Powerful Schools inspire minds and create opportunities? I wanted to, needed to, learn more about who we serve so that I could begin to tell our story.
I sat wondering at my desk: What does Powerful Schools look like in action? Who are our students and what are they learning from Powerful Schools?
So, on a recent sunny day Jeannie Collins-Brandon, Education Director, and I took a short walk up the block to John Muir Elementary, one of Powerful Schools’ core schools to see the Learning Intervention and In-Class Learning programs in action. We visited Room 19, Mr. Lorca’s third grade class, as they were in the middle of a Family Stories unit with Arni Adler, Powerful Schools’ Staff Developer.
We walked into a room full of fidgety kids seated on a colorful carpet, raising their little hands and telling their classmates about places that were special to them. Arni and Mr. Lorca pressed for deeper answers, making them think about why these places are special, how do these places make them feel? One boy in the middle of the carpet answered, “My dad’s house.” “And why is that place so special to you?” With a tilted head and a soft smile, he said, “Because we always spend time together when I’m there.” Clearly, they were getting it.
Powerful Schools developed the Family Stories unit to help kids share their varied personal stories – recognizing and embracing that these children come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. This lesson was teaching them how to paint a picture with words. They were learning to tell the ‘why’ and communicate the smells, feelings, sights and sounds that made each place so special.
As we observed the rest of the lesson and the kids went on about swimming pools, classrooms, family homes and parks that were meaningful to each of them, I got to thinking about places that were special to me. And honestly, many of them were the same: the home I grew up in, the park across the street from my house and places where I can often find my favorite, most special people. As I thought about it, I realized that Powerful Schools was becoming a place that was special to me, in part, because of the responsibility it put upon me: to support kids in their early education so that they could, one day, make a difference with their lives.
Powerful Schools has given me that same chance, an opportunity to use my education and skills to make a difference with my life.
Powerful Schools is a bright, cheery place. Walls painted orange and blue, student poems and artwork hanging in the entrance, gigantic pictures of smiling kids line the walls, color splashed about and friendly ‘hellos’ coming from all sides. As I settle into my role here, I have felt welcomed and valued by each person I meet. It is a place I feel comfortable. It is a place where I can make friends. It is a place where my voice can be heard. It is a place where I am challenged.
This is the kind of learning environment we want to create for kids in Powerful Schools programs. A place where they feel respected, where they can take risks, where they are free to express themselves. And that is just what I saw yesterday as I watched Arni and Mr. Lorca guide the class through their exercise, encouraging everyone to speak up, giving individual time to each student and challenging them to think critically.
This is what I want to build support for.
Empowering kids to feel confident in what they know and who they are is our job as adults and I’m happy to have found my special place that asks that I do just that.