Last year I almost quit this job because I thought I had no business working with kids, and because I was having anxiety attacks before I went into the classroom. I said I needed the summer to decide whether or not I’d continue. Somewhere between then and now, the anxiety went away and I found that I genuinely like – no, love – working with middle school and high school age kids.
Maybe the catalyst came when I was doing the film camps over the summer. I spent four weeks of my summer working with youth ranging in age from 7 – 17. Most of them were in the 9-11 range and I had a few I’d worked with last year in All Stars. We also had several repeaters – kids who went to more than one camp. Somewhere in the midst of helping these kids create a vision and then bring it to life on film, I just felt in love. Instead of waking up and thinking of reasons to avoid work, I looked forward to it.
I also revamped the curricula I was working with. There were some philosophical points that really bothered me (primarily that it encouraged kids to label people rather than their behaviors). I felt that parts of it were boring as hell and frankly irrelevant to this population. So I spent part of my summer fixing that.
A grant-writing opportunity came up and I loved that too. How very cool to be able to use my writing skills to secure funding that would help this population. And in the doing of that, I found a curriculum that had been gathering dust on the shelf that is possibly the closest thing to Grove-style teachings, both in message and in method, than anything I’ve seen for young kids. Perhaps it is not accidental that this program was also born in Missouri. At any rate, I began to beat the bushes to find a way to offer it. I tap danced for my boss and for various administrators, as well as for the local 4H club. As a result, I am not only meeting weekly in the “alternative” high school (where they send the so-called “bad” kids), but I’m going to be able to combine this curriculum with my film curriculum for the 4H group I’ll be leading.
What’s more, I’m gathering valuable experience. Valuable because it feeds my soul, valuable because it will count towards getting me in to grad school, valuable because I’ve gotten to do enough new things to secure a decent chance at getting a part time job in the same field when I move to Seattle.
So far this year, I’ve had amazing feedback on the changes I made in the All Stars curricula. Teachers and students love it. My high school students are awesome, thoughtful and they work hard. In general I find them much less whiny and annoying that some of the “good” kids over at the “regular” high school. And I’m going to get to really take my work with Adobe Youth Voices deeper in my work with the 4H club.
Life is really fuckin’ good people. Oh, not every single piece, but over all? Yeah. Really fuckin’ good.