This past summer, I interned at the GO Project for five weeks. With its teaching staff comprised of teachers, students (both college and high school), and learning specialists, the GO Project strives to catch students up in school who are falling behind in under-performing public schools, making use of valuable player in summer time as well as Saturdays during the school year. As of now, the GO Project has four locations: Friends, LREI, GCS, Grace Church Elementary, and Avenues. However, this summer, classes only took place at GCS, Grace Church Elementary, and Avenues. While some interns like myself were placed in morning classes, others helped out in afternoon electives such as yoga, rugby, and drama.
In my 4th grade classroom at Grace Church Elementary, I, along with another intern from Bard HS, assisted the Head Teacher, Student Teacher, and Teaching Assistant. We began the day at 8:45 a.m. and met our students in the big gym, where the entirety of the teaching and student body gathered for Harambee, where we sang songs/chants to foster a sense of community despite our separate classrooms and grade-levels. Occasionally, my TA would play songs such as the “Cha Cha Slide,” and students would rush into the center of the gym and get in formation. After Harambee, we went to our classroom and began morning meeting. Usually, we would greet each other and either share something about our day or play a game. We’d work on Math Centers, Math Games, and Reading in the morning. The teachers would split the students up into groups to work on the problem we read aloud on the board, which involved fractions. After working in their notebooks, the Head Teacher would have individual students solve it on the board. As expected, most students preferred Math Games, such as Multiplication Bingo or War. The teachers would facilitate the games and clear up any confusion. Throughout the summer, the GO students worked on mini-essays concerning longer recesses, chocolate milk in schools, and the reduction of homework. We helped them structure the essay and fine tune the intricacies of their argument. I particularly enjoyed one title: “Homework Don’t Be Fresh and Spicy with Me.”
Eventually, we’d break for lunch, and the interns would to Professional Development (PD), where we’d discuss classroom incidents, racism, diversity, equity, and education. I enjoyed having the opportunity to share ideas with other teenagers especially since the topics in question possess no clear solution. Every week, a different group of inters would lead an inter-led presentation. My group was assigned “Making a Difference,” and chose to facilitate a game of jeopardy in which the prize was a container of munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Our Head Teacher permitted us a lunch break of 30 minutes after PD. When we returned, the students were usually reading an article, essay-writing, or learning about government. They had just come from recess and were either exhausted or energized, making it hard to motivate them to work. Shortly, they would leave the classroom and head off to their afternoon activities at 2:00 p.m., when the day ended for us interns.
I loved my time at the GO Projected and was surprised how quickly these five weeks passed and how much I enjoyed the routine and structure it provided me with. I cherish the unique relationships I formed with the students. One boy kept complaining that the “chicken” took his snack and reprimanded me for being “so fresh and spicy with [him]” every time I told him to do his work. A girl taught me a dance she made for her musical.ly and made a secret handshake with me. Another girl sang “If I Ain’t Got You” at the final show at the end of the summer and cried tears of joy after the audience applauded her. This past summer, I’ve learned to value my education, relationships, privileges, and ability to help others.