By Aria Brennan, AmeriCorps member serving on the MFS Investment Management team with McCormack Middle School
It had been an interesting day so far in our extended day program. Snack time had degenerated into a food fight, and some of our students were reluctant to leave the cafeteria to go to their designated club. Finally, though, we made it to clubs.
Our students had been learning about cultures around the world for several weeks. Now, their task was to draw or make a collage to illustrate their own culture, however they perceived it. I had spent most of the day worrying that my lesson wouldn’t be directive enough; left to their own devices for most of the hour, would our students stay engaged with their projects? Given that we were off to a rough start, I was even less sure.
However, as I explained the directions, students gradually sat down and began to listen. I passed out the materials. The students immediately began their work. Better yet, they continued for the full period, barely pausing to collect extra pens or magazine clippings from the bin. As they worked, they chatted with each other about the things they were drawing or pasting: a flag, an old home, a backpack from before moving to the U.S., and others.
I was pleasantly surprised. One area our team struggled with was writing engaging lesson plans. Tired from a full day of school, students often had a difficult time focusing on activities. I was curious as to why this lesson, which I hadn’t expected to be a stunning success, was going so well.
“Do you like doing this?” I asked a small group.
“Yes! That video we watched last week was alright, Miss, but it’s more fun when we get to do stuff about ourselves,” one student explained.
“Yeah,” another agreed. “We’re always learning about other stuff at school, but we never get to talk about the way we really are, you know, outside school. I don’t think adults want to hear about that stuff.”
Talking to these two students changed my perspective on lesson planning. Although I could remember feeling the same way in school—that teachers were more interested in “student me” than “real me”—it hadn’t occurred to me before that after school was a perfect time to change that. In the future, I look forward to creating more opportunities for students to express themselves through art.