By Asya Fields, AmeriCorps member serving on the CSX Transportation team at Kimball Elementary School
Caleb* is the type of student that is recognized by everyone throughout the school. When I began my service year at Kimball Elementary School, I quickly noticed that Caleb got a lot of attention from teachers, even some that had never had him in class. He's part of a group that the Kimball staff likes to call the "Kimball Veterans," paying homage to the students who have been at Kimball since Pre-Kindergarten. Caleb is in 5th grade now, and I could tell the expectations for him were especially high. Last year he was in the Robotics club. This year, he plays on the soccer and basketball team. At the beginning of the school year, Caleb was added to the list of students with whom I'd be working for the rest of the year. I was excited, but also uncertain about the connections I would be able to make with him.
Over the past few months, my relationship with Caleb has evolved through many ups and downs. Caleb has consistently been one of my most engaged students during small groups, but getting homework and classwork turned in was often challenging for him. When the Kimball staff realized Caleb was falling behind, many of them started to keep a closer eye on him and made sure to hold him accountable for turning in his missed work. This was especially important during basketball season. When Caleb first joined my small group, he was unsure about accepting my help with his academics. Many of my offers to assist him one-on-one during class were met with a response of "I'm good.” This frustrated me, so I decided it was important for me to find a way to build trust with Caleb.
One day while Caleb was working on comprehension questions in class, I decided to give it one more try and asked him if he needed any help. He was wary, but willing. As we went through the questions, there was a lot of friction while trying to help Caleb stay motivated to finish and remain confident about his answers. Toward the end, I decided to have a heart-to-heart with him about the benefits of asking for help. I wanted to make sure he understood that no one in this world is successful on their own. After a few minutes of encouragement, Caleb became sad and conflicted about how it would look if he asked for help and what it would mean to his peers. I tried my best to assure him that everyone needs to ask for help at some point, but after the conversation I could tell he was still unconvinced.
Needless to say, I did not expect to see Caleb walk up to me the next day and ask for my help. It turns out he had misplaced his comprehension questions. I was excited to see him recognize an opportunity where he could ask for help. We found a new sheet of comprehension questions and worked through it together. As I reflect on this first half of the year, and all of the ups and downs that come with finding connections with students, I truly see the value of consistency in working with my students.
*Name changed to protect student’s privacy.