By: Hilens Zelaya, 2nd Grade Teacher
It always amazes me how small children can be so adaptable. After our first GRC presentation, our class decided to change the topic for our Grassroots Campaign. We wanted to focus on a project that had the “people” in our community at the forefront of our efforts. Needless to say, as a first year teacher at VLA, where the expectation is to guide students through a project that benefits their community, I was a little nervous and worried about how to help my students identify a meaningful project. I contemplated many different ways to facilitate the discussion and finally decided that the best way to do it was the same way you take off a band-aid; quick and fast!
On a Monday morning I walked into class and spoke to my students while they ate their breakfast. I talked to them about whether or not they thought the project we’d identified directly impacted the lives of the people they loved. As a class, we decided on a different topic for our campaign. I expressed to them how worried I was about restarting the whole process. I also let them know that I thought they did a wonderful job on our first topic and that I was very proud of them. Through all of my nervousness and anxiety, one of my students said something that made all my worries go away. “Don’t worry Ms. Zelaya, we remember everything you taught us when we were doing our first topic, we can just do all that again with a different topic!”
That very day we began from square one with a new topic. The students brainstormed quickly on their own and decided that they wanted to teach people how to live healthy. Once the topic was picked, the ball started rolling again. I felt like I didn’t even have to do anything. My second grade students took control of the process and went with it. I heard students discussing the different ways that people can live a healthy life. They discussed the different things that people are doing now, that are not very healthy. At that point I felt silly for thinking that this was going to be a heavy task on my students!
As the weeks passed I saw my students working hard on their new GRC topic. They were coming up with great ideas and discussing them. They agreed and disagreed on different things, but no matter what, they always came to an agreement. I saw a tremendous growth in the way that they were addressing each other. There wasn’t any screaming or fighting in my classroom. It was like listening in on an adult conversation! The classroom was running so smoothly, I got a chance to stand back and observe these little second grade brains at work!
I must admit that standing back and watching was a very difficult task for me. As a teacher you always want to step in and correct things that you see are wrong. I had to keep myself from butting in and telling my students that something was wrong, or that an idea was not a very good idea. Holding back taught me that my students can do that on their own. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Maybe we can say it in a different way.” That is something that one friend told another friend and they worked it out together.
In the end, my students came up with many great ideas! They discussed how important it would be to create a healthy cookbook for people who were not aware about healthy eating. They also wanted to create a book of exercises that families can do together. Finally, they decided that they were going to be the healthy living advocates in their own homes. I cannot express how impressed and proud I am of my students at this point. They took a task that I thought was going to be very difficult and they stepped up to the plate and made it work. This goes to show that we are doing a wonderful job at Village Leadership Academy, creating great thinkers and leaders!!