Friday, July 16, 2010

Kids Go Green!

Ahhhh. Huge sigh of relief as Friday marks the end of the 4th week of camp. That means there are 3 weeks left!

Today was the last day of extra help in the morning from the awesome Rhine Teens. They are a group of high school students from the East Coast who come over here to volunteer at Fun in the Sun. For the past three weeks I had 4 helpers in my room in the mornings, so when I split my kids into groups I put an older mentor in each group.

Since today was their last day my group decided to organize a party. We had music, food, decorations that we secretly organized before their arrival. A messanger ran to tell the Rhine Teens to come in to our room, lights out, kids hidden under desks... SUPRISE! It was so cute.

Allie baked a cake, Alfonso and Yesenia (brother and sister in my group) brought homemade tamales for everyone, the twins brought chips; it was quite a collaboration! I'm proud of my kids, they organiezd it, and it was a success! (PS: When I talk about 'my kids,' I mean 'my campers.' I dont think 'campers' is the right word to describe our relationship. I feel like more than a camp counselor, I'm a teacher, mentor, activity planner,mediator... isn't that almost like a mother?)

For the last three weeks I will be all on my own again. Me and the 13 kids. I'm responsible for organizing almost everything that we do. There are quite a few field trips already planned for us, ranging from Los Banos pool to dance lessons at Arts Alive, but the rest of the time is completely up to me.

I've been having them work on our blog a lot, and its coming together quite beautifully! Here is the link:

Everything on there is written and typed by them. I taught them how to post it themselves. I made them an email address and set up an account for them so they can log on. Please look at it and comment, they would be excited to receive feedback!

One of my biggest challenges is engaging 13 kids who are all significantly behind in their reading levels. Some of the kids going into 6th grade are reading at a 2nd grade level. These are bright kids who deserve a better education than what they get during the school year. When I say education, I include not only school, but also family and community support. Many of their parents do not speak English. They live in a neighborhood plagued with violence and drugs.

Fun in the Sun was invitation only this year for the first time due to budget cuts. These kids were hand-picked by Tere, the family advocate. She knows their individual family situations and chose them for Fun in the Sun because they are the neediest.

Today we go to the computer lab and I givethem instructions to type up blog posts that they had written by hand. We had 6 stories to type up for 12 people. So I put them in pairs and told them to alternate typing sentences. Then I walk around the room and make sure everyone is on task. Five seconds later, 4 sets of hands go up. Antonio wants to know how to spell something. I see that Arturo is not letting Jordi type and Jordi is looking at photos of soccer balls on his screen. Alfonso's computer isn't working. Marlene raises her hand and tells me shes finished and asks me what she should do now. Now Arturo says he has to go to the bathroom. Does he really have to go our does he just want to get out of his work? All of these things are happening at the same time.

They are all very bright and I like them all very much as individuals. But when we get into a group, it is so easy to build momentum of a negative mentality that whining and complaining are like an entire language.
"When are we going to the pool? We never get to do anything fun!" someone whines.
"We just went on a field trip yesterday, we're going to the pool next week, remember?" I respond, trying to sound patient.
"I want to go to Zodos again!"

It is so interesting to view everything I see at camp on a psycological level. For instance, I love watching the twins, noticing their similarities and differences. They were born in the same household, with the same upbringing, and they look SO similar that in the morning I check which one has the scar on his forehead (Arturo) and then remember what color shorts he is wearing.

So with the same nurture, their differences have to come from their nature. During journal time, Arturo goes above and beyond the requirements, always writing quickly and confidently, whereas Antonio needs more time to think about what to write and struggles to meet the requirement of one page. Allie often classifies one as "the nice one" although I still havent figured out which one she means. They are both really good dancers, very physical beings capable of all kinds of crazy athleticism from breakdancing to parcours to gymnastics...

They don't really mind when people mix them up, in fact they use it as an advantage. If one of them gets in trouble, I write their name on the board and if they get three checks they have to leave the group for the rest of the day. So I'll write 'Arturo' and I'll hear a sqealing complaint: "Hey, it wasn't me, that was my twin brother!" "No it wasn't!" It's pretty funny. Then the other kids will start doing it too, as a joke. "It wasn't me, it was my twin brother!"

Anyway, this is the stuff thats on my mind recently. Hope all is well with everyone. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Amber,

    Bye Bye Rhine Teens. Now you REALLY have your hands full, Amber. You are learning that teachers, even at the 10-13 year student level, are also substitute mothers. When you get to be a mother yourself, if you ever decide to go that route, you will already be a pro, unlike the two amateur rookies who raised your Dad.

    Love from RWY