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WednesdayNovember 2011

It’s no secret that In-school Residencies are one of my VERY MOST favorite things that we do (I know, I know, I have a LOT of those). But this program is really special! If you’ll allow me to step foot on my soapbox for just a moment, ahem: It’s very easy to lament the public education system in this country — and particularly this state — right now. As I said, it’s easy to do — and, in fact, I believe that we SHOULD BE doing that, lamenting it. We should be talking at length about it.

But do you know what’s EVEN BETTER than lament and/or talking at length? TAKING ACTION. Lament away. Talk until you’re blue in the face. But always, always be aware that talking is different than doing, and that doing makes change, helps, fixes. You feel me?

Our In-school Residency program gives caring adults all over our community the chance to TAKE ACTION. To not just lament ridiculously high teacher-to-student ratios, but to actually place yourself in that very ratio, thereby lowering it. So today, friends, I thought I’d walk you through a week in our residency program. Perhaps you have time in your schedule to help out!

Monday.

Monday morning, bright and early, finds us at Erickson Elementary School in Ypsilanti. Erickson was one of the pilot schools for our residency program, and this is our FOURTH YEAR there. I really cannot say enough good things about this school. The teachers are some of the very finest I have ever met — wholly committed to their students, completely innovative, and incredibly welcoming of our volunteers. In fact, Erickson has been SUCH a stellar volunteer opportunity, we are there three days a week. When something works this well, why not? Our residents help out in four classrooms: Ms. Graessley’s second graders (I am seriously considering moving to Ypsilanti just so my kids, when I have them, can be in Ms. Graessley’s class.) for forty-five minutes, Ms. Reed’s third graders for thirty minutes, Ms. Winters’ fourth graders for thirty minutes, and Ms. Todd’s second graders for forty-five minutes.

Monday afternoons, we head over to Ms. Hatt’s fourth grade classroom at Mitchell Elementary in Ann Arbor. This is our second year with Ms. Hatt, and it is truly a joy to be in her classroom. She loves teaching, and it shows. She also knows just what to do with our volunteers to make them feel helpful and utilized.

Tuesday.

Tuesday mornings, we start out in two first-grade classrooms at Perry Elementary in Ypsilanti. Ms. Howe and Ms. Courtney are two teachers who were ALSO involved in the piloting of this program. We started working with them four years ago at Chapelle Elementary, a school that has, sadly, since closed. We were thrilled to stay with these two amazing teachers, though, and love seeing them every Tuesday morning.

From there, we head over to Adams Elementary in Ypsilanti, where we are working with the lovely and delightful Ms. Hannah. We began our work with Ms. Hannah three years ago when she was at West Middle School in Ypsilanti (now Ypsilanti Middle School, where we are in the midst of our third year of after-school tutoring). Adams was another of our pilot schools three years ago, and we could not be more pleased to be working with Ms. Hannah for our third year in our fourth year at this school.

Wednesday.

Wednesday mornings, we visit our friends at Erickson Elementary again, just like Mondays. After that, we head over to Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor to work with two of the most wonderful PEOPLE (let alone teachers!) we have ever met: Sal Barrientes and Ellen Daniel. Middle school is a difficult age in human development, and just knowing that there are people like Mr. Barrientes and Ms. Daniel to help guide young people through this age is an incredible relief. Seeing these two teachers in action is truly an uplifting experience.

Thursday.

Thursday finds us in our first year at Ypsilanti High School for just about the entire school day. As many of you probably know, YHS has undergone an incredible number of changes this year, from splitting into two different academies to a new principal to a new scheduling system and beyond. It has been challenging and wildly rewarding to help out and do what we can to assist the school in this time of transition. Making our experience even better is the guidance of the teachers we’re working with: Ms. Payeur, Ms. Vincent, and Ms. Fassbender.

Friday.

We wrap up our week at Erickson Elementary School. Balance is nice. So is finishing a long work week with the awe-inspiring staff at Erickson.

What it all adds up to: Six schools, thirteen teachers, almost four hundred students, and over twenty-five hours a week.

What do residents do?

Work one-on-one with students who are behind, or who just want a little extra help. Administer assessments. Grade papers. Facilitate small group work. Become beloved celebrities in the classroom. Change lives. You know, just a typical weekday for an 826 volunteer.

Do you have time in your schedule next year to help out in an area school? If so, shoot me an email and we’ll get you trained and set up. I can promise you, wholeheartedly, that you will find the experience incredibly rewarding.

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