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FridayNovember 2010

Two important things happened yesterday. Firstly, it was the birthday of Katie Jones, our on-site, in-school coordinator (among other things). Secondly, it was the day of our in-school residency in Erica Hatt’s third-grade classroom at Mitchell Elementary. The combination of these two things was pretty incredible, and I was lucky enough to see it, first hand. I’ll recap it for you!

We arrived at Mitchell at about 8:55am. We signed in at the office and headed down to Mrs. Hatt’s classroom. The moment we came in, the students wished Ms. Katie a very enthusiastic happy birthday. They sang “Happy Birthday” to her underwater (a wonderful trick done by moving your index finger quickly over your lips as you sing). Then they presented her with a book of birthday wishes.

Last week, we spent our writing time in Mrs. Hatt’s class by breaking open overused words, and coming up with more exciting ones. So when the students wrote wishes like “I hope you have a vast ice cream,” or, “I wish a mammoth cake for you,” we knew the lesson had made an impact. This week, we worked on poetry. The students are learning how to read and perform poetry. Have you ever heard a room full of third graders read Langston Hughes and Shel Silverstein aloud? If you haven’t, I would like to tell you how very, incredibly lovely it is: It is very, incredibly lovely. (And may I remind you, if you would like to know this for yourself, you can always fill out a volunteer application here.)

Then the students went back to their tables, and practiced reading more poems, and worked on the poetry anthologies they are each making. It’s not time for them to start writing their OWN poetry just yet, but Jordan and I started a draft of a poem that I think has a lot of potential:

Apples are juicy.
Oranges are juicy.
Grapes are juicy.
Bananas are not juicy.

(We had been discussing the effectiveness of repetition for rhythm in poetry. Yes, this was a conversation I was having with an eight year old.)

At this point, writing time was just about over. But we managed to squeeze in ten minutes of poetry performances. I probably don’t need to say this, but it was pretty much the best ten minutes of my day. Here’s a picture!

Now it was time to start Read 180, a comprehensive reading intervention education program that helps improve proficiency and skill. Students came from another class, and Katie and I worked on subjects, predicates, and independent reading. At 11:30am, we packed up, were hugged several times, and left.

I don’t want to toot our own horns or anything, but I will anyway. The In-school Residency program is really, truly amazing. It’s a simple enough concept, and yet there is something that feels so INNOVATIVE about it. Even top-of-the-line teachers like Erica Hatt just do not have the superpowers it would take to be able to give one-on-one attention to every student who needs it.

Sure, you cried at the end of Waiting for Superman, so did all of us here at 826, but perhaps you were left with an empty feeling. Schools are failing, and what is to be DONE about it? Well, we have at least ONE answer. And may I remind you, if you would like to be PART of a solution, if you would like to walk the walk and not just talk talk talk, you can always fill out a volunteer application here.

Many thanks to Erica Hatt, whose commitment to her students never fails to inspire us, and to her students, who brighten our lives every Thursday morning. And happy birthday, Katie Jones! We are SO, SO glad you were born.

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