Kyle Fisher- Hertz is 21 years old and serves Wing Luke Elementary’s fourth grade as a mentor and tutor. When asked why he serves with City Year he replied, “I serve because injustice can be combated in many contexts, but I feel no battle is more worth fighting than against the inequalities in our education system.”
My first day at Wing Luke Elementary began with an introduction to all 330 students at once. The entire student body was sitting on the cafeteria floor chatting with friends they hadn’t seen all summer and fidgeting with first-day-of-school-jitters. I looked around for the maximum capacity sign, overwhelmed by the sea of students. Suddenly a sharp voice pierced through the chatter.
“Good morning powerful dragons!”
“Good morning Ms. Muth!” They chimed back in sing-song unison.
Davy Muth, principal of Wing Luke, spent the rest of the assembly welcoming her students back, saying the school pledge, and going over school rules and expectations. Then she ended the assembly by telling her powerful dragons she looked forward to seeing them again next Monday. I looked incredulously at the teacher seated next to me.
“Do they do this-?”
“Every week.” She answered with a smile and a shrug.
I couldn’t imagine what could justify the ordeal of gathering the whole school into one room every single week. On the following Monday I got my answer.
Monday morning the assembly began as the first had. I looked out at the rows of young faces: some attentive, some glazed over, some with fingers in noses.
Then Dr. Muth announced, “And now it is time for your teachers to recognize their students of the week.” Any murmur of side conversations was hushed as students waited to hear who would be awarded.
Then, one at a time, teachers announced their selection for student of the week, each giving a detailed explanation of the kindness to others, perseverance in the face of challenging work, or whatever exceptional behavior had earned the recognition.
As students walked to the front of the room and accepted their awards in front of all their peers, there was no variation in their expressions. Beaming pride shone from every face.
The afterschool programs that City Year runs at Wing Luke now also recognize a student of the week, and there is no better feeling than being directly responsible for a child’s pride.
Two weeks ago, a student with a history of acting disruptively had a turn-around week of positive behavior in City Year’s afterschool Starfish club, and we recognized her with the weekly award. Her father came to pick her up from afterschool that evening, and as they were walking out I asked, “Dee Dee*, did you tell your dad you were student of the week?”
Her father raised his eyebrows and smiled, “Really, Dee Dee?”
She nodded and answered her dad’s outstretched high-five. This was clearly not the type of school report either of them were used to.
Even the students who never misbehave often go unrecognized in the chaos of a typical school climate, and it has been a personal weekly joy to see our most powerful dragons honored every Monday.
*Student’s names was changed to protect her identity