This wonderful question was one of the older kids (in another classroom) asked me today when they were passing by and saw me on the playground. I told her “Then it’s a special day!” It definitely made me feel good she even remembered I came on Monday’s!
Today I went in for a little while because this week some kids are there all day for their Spring Break and I say it would help out the teachers. I also was there yesterday all day cause I could (9-3). Another funny thing that Ms. Sara said was she told one of the students in the classroom that I was a volunteer. I told some little boy to do something (I don’t even know what…) and then Ms. Sara said “Now, you better listen to Ms. Anna because then she won’t come back. Did you know she doesn’t even get paid to come here — she is volunteering. So you better listen to her so she’ll come back to play with you.” Even better was what one little girl in the class said next “And we want her to come back and play with us!”
When I was a child I wanted to be a pilot like my dad. As I thought about writing my resume to apply for Teach for America I decided to ask the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. It is just a mock resume for this class, but maybe someday I will actually send it! Here are a few of the responses:
“A conductor-take the tickets at the train”, “A police officer- put all the people in handcuffs”,”An art teacher!” “An artist”, “a teacher”, “a dancer”, “a singer”, “ballerina”, “soccer player”, “a mother!–but no boys cause boys grow up to be mean, like my brother!”
It is really awesome hearing about their true passions and dreams. It was funny, one little boy said “I’m gonna drive my moms car and get a girlfriend!” Ms. Sara and I both laughed and I just wonder who or what gave him the idea that having a girlfriend was cool. It was funny cause the other boy playing cars with him said “EWWW.” His face was priceless.
These kids are too awesome. I could literaly sit here and write about them for hours and I’ve only been with them 10 hours in the past two days…okay, that’s actually a lot. Wow. I am excited to go back tomorrow and surprise them cause they don’t know I am coming. It’ll be a fun day!
So these past two weeks here have really been amazing. It is not about showing up and counting hours at all. It is looking forward to the kids, having fun and helping out. When I get there Ms. Sara (that is what the kids call all the teachers… Ms.,Mrs. or Mr. and then their first name making me Ms. Anna) is there and I ask her what I can do or just start doing something I know will help. I think as I look at this new assignment that we have that I have an asset in taking initiative. I finally feel like I am actually helping out before the kids get there and as they arrive. This is by taking initiative. I find out what Ms. Sara needs and this past week she was really appreciative of all I finished and did before the first girl arrived.
Then as the kids get there I help the early birds with their homework before we head outside. Then when we are outside a lot of kids shout my name and say hello. I know everyone’s name in my classroom. I do get a couple kids mixed up. I feel bad about it, but they correct me and don’t seem to mind. It is adorable because the kids in the other class that are outside at the same time even run up to me and say “HEY MS. ANNA!.” I try and guess their names and get a couple right or I ask them to give me their first letter and I usually guess correct. I have a great time outside and play tag with some kids, then go get a ball that flew over the fence for others, and play hide and go seek with one girl. I ask everyone how their weekend is and also have everyone sign in on the sign in sheet for Ms. Sara.
I really am enjoying spending time with the kids even when it is just helping someone one on one with homework after outside time, and carpet time. Carpet time is when everyone sits on the carpet and Ms. Sara gives the announcements for the day. It is funny during carpet time, one boy that acts naughty often is asked to sit crisscross applesauce next to me. He says under his breathe “I don’t want to sit with her.” It is funny that I have become a punishment for him because he isn’t focusing.
I can’t wait for next week because I think I might come a couple more days than normal! They have full days so I’ll go Monday, Wednesday, and hopefully Friday too in the morning for awhile. It will be awesome!
The weather brightening up has really made all the kids so happy as they run around and play outside. Today Chicago broke a record for this early in March! This week when I walked in it was a beautiful day outside. Sara was excited I was there today because Jamie was at another location and she wanted to help get the kids to write thank you notes to a donor who gave some new science material to the classroom. I was glad to help clean up the classroom before the kids arrived by taking off some ugly contact paper that was apparently on all the furniture at one point. Sara was glad I could help because it sure looked tacky! She had finished most of the room already.
The kids got to run around outside for an hour as they arrived. I played tag with one little boy, “coached” soccer for some boys, and talked to a lot of the girls about how their weekends were. They were so happy out in the sun and I can’t believe how much good weather can effect someone’s day. Those kids needed to have fun and that weather made it so much easier. When the grudgingly came back inside we got around to carpet time. There was an important announcement about appropriate behavior in the classroom. Sara emphasized how no one should bring up specific names, but to just listen to the new rules. The rule was to only play games that are appropriate and if someone is not playing an appropriate game to tell an adult. Before the kids arrived Sara asked if I would ask Drew to sit by me because he is usually distracted during carpet time and so I did.
Drew still got up a lot and didn’t focus very well the whole time, but I hope I helped. Even though she started the announcement with a new rule, she ended it on a positive note with the new boy in the class getting star of the day. It reminds me of the ABCD model by showing the class specific kids assets everyday they will all behave build a good classroom community together. I assume that when Drew gets star of the day he behaves a little better than when Sara has to constantly tell him to sit down and not play with his toys during carpet time. All in all, the kids did great on Monday and I think the good weather had a lot to do with it. I know my mood was higher because of it.
As I walked into the classroom to volunteer on Monday I see two women in their twenties sitting in the mini-chairs for kids. One is Jamie and the other Sara, the two teachers for the classroom. I joined them a foot off the ground and talked about how I can help out with the kids. I see myself in Sara and Jamie. Jamie finished her undergrad and is going to take prerequisites at a small school after she finishes this school year at Christopher House and going on to a Speech Pathology Graduate school program. On possible dream of mine is to go into Speech or Occupational therapy because I love working with kids one-on-one. Sara is a super-senior at my university and a Communication major just like I am. Seeing these two women, not too older than me in that position gave me hope that maybe I’ll work there sometime in the future.
As you can see I posted a slideshow of some of the wonderful kids I get to work with. They were so perturbed with my huge camera and some expected their photo to come out of it, like a Polaroid. I am hoping to give the kids some photos in two weeks when I return because many were interested in having their photos. The reason I took the photos was so I could remember all their names, so after I took the photo, I also wrote down their names in order. I want to communicate with them and get to know them. The start of communication is calling them by name. I could try remembering their names while I am there, but instead I wanted to prepare for the future.
As I was there the kids were talking about the future as well. As we ate a snack of an apple and yogurt, two girls got the topic of cell phones. One said, “My dad said that when I turn 10 I can get a cell phone.” And I looked at her smiling and shaking my head because I think 10 is a bit young to get a cell phone. She smiled and shook her said yes saying “No yea, he did, or maybe when I’m 8 or 9″ really excitedly. Then she went on to tell me how much she wanted to be a teenager. I told her that being a kid is awesome and to enjoy it while she can. Sara also agreed with me and said there is nothing special about the teenager years. All that little girl could think about was the future.
I mean honestly, why are we always planning, re-planning, stressing, worrying, and thinking about our futures. I am leaving for the United Kingdom in three days and all I am doing is planning, planning, planning. I hope when I am there in the beautiful cities of London and St. Andrews I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the present. Also, when I return to Christopher House after break I hope I have all their names memorized, photos in hand to give to them, and enjoy helping and spending time with them in the present.
This relates back to the ideas of our class because part of the “Social Change Wheel” we looked at for this week does require the looking ahead and planning of actions. However, some work, like my charity work requires me to give my undivided attention to the present and help the kids that day. The project I helped with this week is a project call “Love the Skin You Live In” based on a book they read in class. The kids are painting a paper mache balloon their skin color and writing a sentence why they love the skin they live in. One girl finished and she said “I love the skin I live in because it protects my bones.” I helped her spell the words for her. In the first photo of the slideshow you can see two started projects in the background. When I am helping the kids I will try not focusing on what else I have to do for the day, but only on the present.
Not having class on last Wednesday for University 290 was a blessing in disguise. I was finally able to start volunteering because of it! The previous week I kept trying to meet with my supervisor and on Wednesday at 3:30 I went to Christopher House for the first time. I helped out in Classroom 10 which has 5 to 7 year olds. It was a blast!
In this next section and the duration of my blog I made up names to protect identity of the children and people I work with. Although I do not know many of the kids names yet. Just a few.
Wednesday February 15th (2:45 pm to 5:45 pm)
First of all, I would like to say how welcome I felt at first. A little girl came up to me, grabbed my hand and walked inside with me when I first said I was helping with her classroom. Also, they all wanted to know how old I was, what my name was, and if I was pregnant…maybe that is a sign I need to lose weight (I am kidding- I had an unfitted shirt which could make me look pregnant). That question made me feel all the more welcome though because it shows these kids aren’t holding anything back.
Phillip is a hoot! He is in first grade and comes to Christopher House every day after school. He is crazy and excited about life, but also asked me to help him with his homework. It showed me how Christopher House is really helping these kids with their school skills. I sat with him on these fun mini-couches and helped him figure out the rhyming words to match up. Honestly, he did it all himself, but I gave him the assurance and support he needed. I even said “Phillip, you don’t need my help! You’ve got this.” He insisted I did, so I sat patiently and helped him out. What made me feel extra special was today when I went to Christopher House to get a form signed. When I was walking through the playground I realized my classroom was there! And who do I see first? Phillip of course. I wave to him and say “Hi Phillip!” and he shouts “Anna! Its Anna!” As I walk up I say to the whole class “I can’t hang out with you today because I have to meet with Ryan (my supervisor) today.” Then as I walk in I hear Phillip in the background saying “That’s Anna! She comes and hangs out with us sometimes.
I still am amazed he remember my name and Ryan told me that the kids really do remember. If I were here one day and then come back a year from now, they would still remember. He told me he only wants volunteers who have a long-term relationship in mind. I told him I would definitely be interested in working here after Rome next year. He suggested I send the kids a letter from Rome and I think that is a great way to continue my relationship with them.
Another fun time during my first week at Christopher House was chatting with a group of girls about the song they started playing. In the music station in their classroom they have loads of CD’s for the kids to listen to from Wicked to Adele. After turning on “Rumor Has It” and dancing and singing to it someone put on “Domino” by Jesse J. As they were all at a table I came up and asked if they knew who sang this song. One chimed “Katy Perry?” and I said, “No, but it does sound like her…” Then I got “Rihanna” and then I told them a hint…”Her name starts with a J.” This is where the guesses got completly crazy after “Lady Gaga,” which I reminded started with a G. Then “Michael Jackson,” “Janet Jackson” and some other funny J singer that it was obviously not. Then I told them the right answer: Jesse J. “She sang It’s not about the money, money money… I mean “Price Tag”! Then a little girl started singing it and everyone was like “Ohh” its that girl. It was a great experience just seeing how these kids and I have the same musical tastes. I can’t wait to learn even more about them.
I plan on going there ever Monday for three hours. To make up for the lost time and to help out the teachers in the classroom I am going to come in when they have full days in March and April. For those three Mondays I will stay for 6 hours.
[Logo found at Christopherhouse.org]
Man, am I impatient. All I want is to know which day of the week I will volunteer and get that e-mail telling me my background check is approved. It has been four weeks…and the Volunteer Coordinator said it usually takes 3-4 weeks to get the background check approved. I just want to get started so I can finally get in my weekly groove and start getting to know the kids. It has been a long time coming for me since I first saw this organization on RamblerLink and boy do I just want to start! I hope the process for getting in touch with my supervisor and setting up my weekly time goes smoothly. Also, because I am starting later I will have to do around four hours each week or more to get in 40-50 hours. I hope that is possible.
I had a crazy idea today, but my friend inviting me to Rambler Room made me convince myself it was a bad idea. I was going to take the bus to Christopher House and see what the Uptown location looked like and how the program that I will be working with is set up. But after my class when my friend texted me I thought “that was probably a bad idea anyway…I’ll just go get food with her instead.” I thought of how they may think I was a creeper or something if I just showed up saying “Hey, I am gonna volunteer here soon…just as soon as my background check goes through.” Although I really don’t know how they would have reacted, it could have been fine, or really bad. So better safe than sorry I suppose. I just hope the coordinator gets back to me ASAP!
In our reading for today we read about if service is always good or not. An interesting point the author Adam Davis made is…
“Serving you, I confirm my superiority. Being served, you confirm your inferiority By my apparent act of humility, I raise myself up” 5
I get a lot of joy from working with kids and they do raise me up with their pure joy and view of the world. With this I guess I am confirming my superiority towards them. However, I don’t think it is because I am economically better than them, but older and able to help them in different ways than they can help each other and themselves. Also, because of their innocence they do not confirm their inferiority when I serve them.
Maybe that is why I love kids so much. I treat them with respect and they respect me for befriending them. They are simple and just want to have fun and learn new things. I wonder how the statement by Davis compares with volunteers who work with kids their age or adults. Do they feel that the ones served are confirming their inferiority? I am curious to hear about others opinions on the statement.
Ultimately, as kids get older and lose their innocence they may feel inferior to those who serve them in a different way. I hope though, that the kids I work with just want to interact with me as equals. In the end, that is what we are.
So it has been over a year since I started the application to Volunteer for Christopher House. Around December 2010 I applied and went to the orientation for it. Then I needed to go get fingerprinted and also get a negative TB test to work with kids. That took me awhile. I probably didn’t get a TB test until April 2011 and then in November 2011 I got fingerprinted. In January 2012 I went and got my physical that said I am okay to work with kids. Now all I am waiting for my Background Check to go through and I can start working with kids! It has been a long time coming, but the day is soon in reach!
You may wonder why the title of this blog is Christopher House Transfer. That is because I was originally going to work with the Early Childhood Program and help with kids 0-5 at the Rogers Park Location. I was really excited because toddlers are so cute and innocent and awesome. However, they had reached their volunteer quota so the coordinator asked if I’d like to work at the Uptown location with their after school program. I was bummed I wasn’t going to work with the littler kids, but I do love working with kids of all ages so I said yes. It will be a much different experience working with school aged kids, but I know I’ll jump in head first and have a blast. I hope it works well with my schedule and that I can start ASAP. I never knew volunteering took so many steps, but I guess in the end it is all about keeping the kids safe. The Uptown location is a quick bus ride from my apartment so I am excited about the short commute. I wonder what kind of activities I’ll be doing with the kids and what kind of input they will want from me as a volunteer. I guess I will have to wait and see.
I found this promotional video about Christopher House. It is kind of long, but think it gives a good overview of the programs they provide.