-Written by Christopher Potter, 22 years old from Arlington, MA serving on the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Team at Beech Street Elementary School.
It’s Thursday, and I just got home after finishing a long week of in-school service. This week I planned for, executed, and tracked at least ten small group lessons, logging hours and hours of instruction with my focus list students. But far from being tired, I’m in an ebullient–almost giddy–mood. I’m really proud of my students for their progress, and the institution of City Year for setting me up for success.
I teach two math groups in my third grade class, one for students who are falling behind grade level and one for an advanced group of students. My focus list–the three below-grade-level students whom I’m trying to get caught up this year with intensive small group tutoring–is studying multiplication of two-digit numbers. The small group format lets them learn current class material quickly, leaving some time to skip ahead. Two-digit multiplication is something the class won’t study until spring, and getting ahead has given the focus list students confidence. It also motivates them to improve their single-digit multiplication facts, as that’s necessary to stay ahead. Seeing their improvement–both in math and in confidence–is part of why I’m so happy tonight.
My group of advanced students is studying algebra. Several weeks in, they can create coordinates and graph lines from a linear equation, or solve for x if given an output value. More students ask to join the group every day. The algebra students are clamoring for bonus homework and teach their peers. Not only is a quarter of the class learning algebra, their peers respect and envy their knowledge. Learning math isn’t nerdy; it’s impressive and fun. How can I not smile when students are so excited for math?
But, we have a long way to go. Most of my class–including my focus list students–will not have their multiplication facts memorized when they enter fourth grade. I’m looking forward to helping all of my students learn their multiplication tables by fourth grade and watching them develop positive attitudes about school. And they will have another Corps Member next year. Their future is bright.