We have an organization in our school called Communities in Schools, which, among many things, helps feed kids who are less fortunate, kids who, frankly, are hungry, sending them home each weekend with a bag of groceries. Sadly, it may be the only food they get, as they depend daily (Monday-Friday) on school breakfast and lunch. And though it happens on a smaller scale behind the scenes every week, the organization intermittently partners with other organizations (foodbanks, etc.) to provide an abundance of food for any in need, literally tables full of food, free for the taking. It really is quite the spectacle as our commons area is filled with food on Friday afternoon. It’s hard not to take notice. Well, recently one girl in particular took notice and wanted to know more. Jessica, still in search of an injustice topic for her speech and upon learning what the spectacle was about, discovered her topic: child hunger, a topic closer to home than she ever realized.
Finally settled on a topic that created a “burning in her belly,” she came to me seeking assistance on how she could approach her topic in a way that could make a difference, a real difference. After some discussion, we arrived at Jessica’s assuming the role of one of the kids who benefit from Communities in Schools. The beauty of this project is that the kids can simulate authentic situations, assuming personas, assigning audience, and creating context. Thus, Jessica, seeking to create credibility (ethos), would speak as a hungry kid; we would be simply who we are (staff and students at CHS); and the context would be someone sharing firsthand how they benefit from the program in our school and how people get could get involved to support the program.
Okay, then, stage was set, but Jess now had the task of researching her role. She had to walk the walk if she wanted to talk the talk. Worried that it might be uncomfortable for her to interview an actual beneficiary of the organization, we went with the next best thing: the director of the program, Ms. Megan Ford. Yesterday, Jess had the opportunity to sit down–during my class–to interview Ms. Ford for an entire hour about the organization. I walked the anxious Jess down to Ms. Ford’s office and took care of introductions and context, and then I left Jessica to her work. Later in the period, Jess arrived back at 219 beaming, obviously satisfied with her experience, satisfied with her “new shoes.” I beamed back, handing her a blank thank-you card and envelope, telling her I would leave it in Ms. Ford’s box (teaching some of the finer points not in the curriculum).
I am sure many of you are surprised that we are still working on these speeches. But I tell you, our taking our time has been my best decision this year. I am so proud of what my kids are coming up with, what they are creating. They are amazing little saplings, indeed, and as they stretch for the warm, spring sun over these next weeks, I anticipate growth beyond expectation. And while I am saddened by the thought of passing them along at year’s end, I am grateful that I have some time left, some time to live and grow with them. God, I love this job.