The second time that I was in the third grade, my life completely changed. However, the second time was not due to failure of learning how to read, color, or share, but instead, was because I decided to take a gap year before starting college. I became a teacher.
I was more like a friend, mother, lunch buddy, coach, and cheerleader all wrapped up into one, bright red package wearing khakis. After my graduation from high school, I decided to spend my gap year doing an Americorps program called City Year.
City Year is a program that puts young adults into schools in high-poverty areas to assist with attendance, behavior, and course-work.
I had the opportunity to spend my City Year in the largest city in New Hampshire, Manchester. It is a diverse city filled with many different events, restaurants, and kinds of people.
I had the privilege of working with eighteen bright, funny, and sometimes unknowingly wise 8-year-old's. It was quite the experience living in the same community in which you taught in. I knew what each student had to deal with after they left school because I had to deal with it too. There was crime, break-ins and shootings. Unfortunately, most of this crime was related to the heroin epidemic that is plaguing our cities and towns.
Along with the crime, students usually went home to an empty household because their parents had to work day and night in order to provide for their families. That meant that putting food on the table came first before homework help.
One of my students came up to my desk after hearing the assigned homework. He quietly stated, “Miss. Sarah, I can’t do the homework”. I was curious for the answer, because it was more than likely to be along the lines of “I have too many video games to play”, or simply, “I’m just not doing it”. However, this student said that he couldn’t do the homework, which was to read for 20 minutes any book of your choosing, because he didn’t have any books at home.
I was so shocked to come to the realization that some students don’t have the basic materials at home in order to continue their learning after school or during the summer.
After my student told me this I reflected upon my own school experience. In third grade, I was reading chapter books, being read to at night and writing my own stories. I was lucky enough to have had parents invested in my education because they had the privilege of only having one parent work in order to support my family.
Growing up, college was always a definite for me. I had parents supporting me, and it was simply an expectation that I would attend a University. When asked by my students what I was going to do after my year with them ended, I told them that I was going to college.
I began to ask my students if they wanted to go to college after they graduated from high school, and most of them responded with a “no”. For the rest of the time that I was with them, I tried my hardest to make each one of them believe that they can attend a University one day if they work hard enough. Each one of them was smart, kind and funny. They just need to realize that college can be in their future.
A few weeks ago, after I started my first year at Castleton University, I went back to visit my students. I told them about my first days of school, what it’s like at college, and how much I missed them. When one of my students was about to get on the bus to go home at the end of the day, he stopped and asked me a question.
“Do you think I can go to college, just like you?”
“Absolutely,” I said in response.