Written by Kalyssa King, AmeriCorps Member, Cesar Chavez Elementary School
One of City Year’s rules for “Putting Idealism To Work” states to “Always thank people- Right Away.” In the work this organization does, collaboration is key and small acts build towards our student’s success. By taking the time to thank others we are able to reflect on our mission and also give credit to those who make our students the first priority. As Thanksgiving is approaching, many take the time to reflect on the different things that they are grateful for in their lives. Personally, I am thankful for so much in my life, especially my family, friends, and City Year. One aspect within City Year I am the most thankful for are the students that I have the privilege of serving. These students are driven, compassionate, and strong - constantly reminding me to appreciate the little things and find good in each day.
At Cesar Chavez Elementary, I have different responsibilities during the school day that range from literacy support to whole school operations support. One of the most special roles I have is co-leading a classroom of nearly twenty first graders for three hours after school. In this class I have a first grade student named Cloe* who was raised only speaking Portuguese. In our school she is the only student who has this unique background, and although she is learning English, she often struggles to complete her homework and follow directions.
In college I double majored in International Studies with an emphasis in Latin America and Spanish, but in order to get a more comprehensive understanding of the region, I took a semester of Portuguese. After the first day of having Cloe* in my afterschool class, I decided to brush up on my Portuguese language skills in order to try to make what I was teaching a little more accessible, starting with numbers. The next day she started to struggle with her math homework, so I said the numbers of the equations in Portuguese; with a simple “Oito mais cinco são…,” her face lit up, and we were able to complete the worksheet. After putting her homework away, she sat at her desk and took out a piece of paper to draw. When her drawing was completed, she came back to me and asked me how to say and spell “you” in English. After showing her, she wrote it at the top, pointed at the word and then back at me.
Gratitude starts here; It starts with acknowledging the forces that make your life easier, enriched and ultimately better. In the classroom we have branched out even further to her by integrating Spanish and Portuguese as much as we can into instruction so that Cloe* has a learning environment that will allow her to thrive. Recently, she drew herself, me and my co-teacher, Mr. Ivan, all holding hands and smiling, after receiving individualized instruction. Expressing gratitude, whether it be words or a picture shows others the impact they are having on someone’s life. The pieces of gratitude that Cloe* continues to show, inspire me to continue working with excellence to make a space for her and her classmates’ success.