By: Tyler Lin, DC Elementary School Program Summer Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
At the DC Elementary School site, Barnard Elementary, the average day is hectic as it comes. Well, you probably wouldn’t think that if you came in at the same time as me.
Each morning around 11:00AM, I walk in to the Command Center, some staff office we appropriated for the duration of the program, and I’d see Bhadon and Anu sitting and planning their lessons for the day. It’s quiet and they greet me with a smile or a compliment on my outfit. Charles might already be flying around the building, discussing with the DCPS staff such and such about the youth or arranging the gym for assembly. Jeremy would be at his desk, phone in hand, greeting me with a jubilant, “Yayyyyyy, Mr. Tyler!” Come 12:00PM the room would be filled with the teaching staff discussing the events of the previous day and what adjustments to make for the current one. I might help carry a few supplies to one class or make photo copies of a worksheet for another. The pace just picks up without any cues.
Around 1:00PM, the hallways are packed with youth going to and fro. I see the tired and kind eyes of the DCPS teachers who passed on the youth to us patiently but with a hint of relief. Weaving through the building lines, I smile and wave to each youth – many recognize me and wave, but the ones that don’t ask their friends and I hear, “That’s Mr. Tyler!” It’s cute and it always gives me a little more incentive to visit classes during my down time.
After the teachers have accounted for each youth that’d be joining them for the day, they go straight into their lessons. Sometimes, I pop in for a few minutes just to see what lesson is in store. The youth always seem to be bursting with energy even though they’ve been in class since morning. I nod to the teachers and silently leave. Much as I’d like to stay, I usually have a newsletter or set-up task to attend to. If not, I occasionally sub in for a teacher who could not make it that day.
In the office, I chat with Charles or Jeremy as we flip through files or sort snacks. Often, only one of them is in the office while the other one is attending to a youth that needs the cool-down room. Sometimes, it’s just me alone at my laptop while the two of them move like tornados through the school. Even though I’m working, I tune my ears to the hallway, listening for youth running to the bathroom or water fountain. I’d call to them from the office, “Let’s make better choices! Running the halls is disruptive and unsafe!” I do feel like a nag but it kind of comes with the position. A DCPS teacher walks in, helping themselves to a cup of coffee. I’m not as welcoming or hospitable as Jeremy or Charles is but I usually try to throw in a, “Hi! How are you?” Charles glides in with a warm smile and, even though he might be carrying a bag or box, manages to strike up a conversation as he re-stations himself at his desk.Recess comes around and the boys from either Saadia or Anu’s class come in, looking for the balls.
We drop gentle reminders that the balls stay in their hands and don’t bounce in the hallways. They say, “Yeah! We know!” I remember being that kid. I listen to them walk away and quietly release the breath I’m holding when I don’t hear the sound of rubber against the floor. Charles, Jeremy, or I, in whatever combination, split up to distribute snacks to each class. There’s no real reason to but I like to sneak around and do it without the youth seeing me playing a little secret Santa. I’m sure the youth know better but there’s a warm feeling I get from pretending I’m performing a magic trick. I hope I’m not the only staff member that refuses to grow up some.
After recess, there’s a class exchange and the youth stay with a different teacher while their primary assistant teacher joins them. Around this time, I’m usually up and down the stairs, rushing to wrap up for the day. And if I do manage that, I grab my things and ask Charles which class to visit. I stay with them till 5:00PM, the dismissal time for both myself and the youth. I say bye to whoever I happen to see on my way to the door and I run to catch the E4 bus back to my place. I often fall asleep on the bus, thinking about doing it all again the next day.