I am an intern at the GO Project: a summer and weekend program for kids in under-resourced New York City public schools who need extra help with reading, writing, and math. This summer I volunteered in a classroom with eight and nine-year-olds. I started noticing that Steven, one of my students, would lie his head on the desk every time we had a writing exercise to do. I sat with him as he tried to work, but each time he would throw his pencil down, discouraged and upset. One day, he shouted, “I’m just not good at writing!” As someone who gave up on math because of how I was made to feel at his age, I knew I had a responsibility to act. I told him that of course he was good at writing, and that, although it was a little bit confusing in that moment, there was nothing physical that made him bad at it. I encouraged him to keep trying and supported his struggles as best I could. About a week later, I started to see that he was completing all of his writing exercises and giving his best effort even if he didn’t fully understand. He stopped resting his head on the desk and dropping his pencil with despair. I can’t say that Steven is going to be the next Hemingway, but at least he knows that writing is something he can try.
Because there are so few things that students can control throughout their education, it is important that they are surrounded by unconditionally supportive and non-judgemental adults. Although I have no personal experience attending an under-resourced school, I know how essential confidence is when trying to ensure equitable education to a group of students. Part of why I have found work at the GO Project so rewarding is that I can use what I’ve learned from my own academic struggles to be understanding of my students’ needs and offer them the appropriate help. No student should have to struggle, and there is nothing innate that makes girls better at writing and boys better at math. I hope that through my work at the GO Project and in the future I can make younger generations aware of that.