This was the beginning of a run of weekly sessions with summer school students from the Bethlehem School District. I am just one of several artists working with kids during the summer vacation to help curtail what is known as ‘summer slide’ when kids educational progress erodes significantly over the summer months. It’s part of a proven process nationally to engage kids academically.
I had eight or so K’s and 1st graders, only one girl (Shylah, quite so…) and a bunch of boys with various attention spans. One K boy was out of hand and had to be taken to the cafeteria for some crayon time. I figured it be best to break them in with my standard stuff and not hit the literacy stuff too soon. But, singing along, working out rhymes and otherwise engaging them is part of the process, and I had to figure out where they were as well. Cat Came Back, Tutti Tah, Peanut Butter, Down by the Bay, etc.
I have one hour with them and about 45 minutes into the session, one boy said, “I wanna go home.” I had noticed he was not as engaged as the others. So, it was time to dance! I broke out the bag and we did Splish Splash and Jelly in the Dish, and, sure enough, he was back in the game. I’m glad I have a bunch of arts tools in my saddle to be able to recognize and act on these situations.
Another particularly shy boy came in while I was about 15 minutes into the session. He was escorted by the teacher/assistant, painfully shy and in tears. Over the next hour, it was great to see him break out of his shell and start to participate. During Down by the Bay, he started to laugh and eventually chipped in some rhymes and got up and danced. A minor victory in the day of an arts educator.
It was particularly hard work, especially with such a small and young age group, so I’m earning my small honorarium in this series. I look forward to getting to know the kids better as we go along.