There’s a lot to manage in an after-school program. From academic lessons to enrichment activities, heck--even snack coordination and room set-up! Over all of these things sits the lynch pin of either productivity or utter chaos: classroom management.
With antsy middle-schoolers, who arrive at our program after eight hours of school, it’s too easy for us tutors to think that a quiet room is the ultimate achievement. That kids sitting still in their seats is the goal. It’s not. Of course order is necessary in any program setting. But when we launch our C.A.S.E. program each year we have two primary goals: academic success and having fun (and that doesn't always lend to a quiet room).
Goal One: Set students up for academic success. How do we do this? Give them a guarded, supportive block of time each day to finish homework assignments. And when they’re done with their homework, have interesting books and projects available for them to fill their minds.
Goal Two: offer them an engaging extra-curricular activity that stimulates a new way of thinking, or promotes a new skill. "Having fun" isn't unguided free time. It's helping kids discover what could be a great use of their time. For example, last week our first gardening activity consisted of sitting down to let the kids sample a dozen fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which they’d never tasted! Learning about seeds and pits, they peeled the hairy pods off of locally grown soybeans, and bit into fresh avocados, plums, cantaloupe, mango and tomatillos! “As soon as I get home I'm going to the store to get me some more of these!” Said one enthusiastic student after a bite full of mango. We staff all grinned and thought, “Score.”
But we’re not the only ones wanting to see these kids succeed, and this year we’ve taken extra steps to make sure that we help most effectively. Before C.A.S.E. began this year, our site coordinators and tutors met with teachers at Dupont Hadley to introduce ourselves and let educators know how we can support their efforts. We were grateful for their warm welcome, and they were delighted to learn about us, and immediately began thinking of students who might benefit from our program.
We know that middle school is a fragile time where academic success is either propelled forward or spirals downward. We are happy to do what we can to make sure the former happens for the kids who attend, and are excited to see measurable results, as we have the last two years. We are grateful for the support of NAZA who makes our work possible! Please pray for these students as they work through these formative years, and for our tutors who invest into them.