Community and Consistency Make a Difference
By Milan Dolezal, Design Challenge Teacher at Aim High Novato As I wrap up my second summer teaching at Aim High, I am more convinced than ever of Aim High’s profound and needed impact on kids (and teachers!). Thanks to persistent COVID, it was difficult for our community of supporters to see Aim High in-person this summer. With that in mind, I wanted to share an experience I had with a student that illustrates Aim High’s impact and why our work is critical. In the Math Lab portion of my class, our first activity was for students to tell me about their past math experiences so that I can fulfill the needs of these students as a math teacher. One particular student, Chris, returned the worksheet to me within minutes. He had crossed out the prompts and written “I hate math” in messy handwriting. I told him I wanted to hear more about his experiences with math and that his dislike of math mattered to me. I handed him a fresh sheet and, reluctantly, he walked back to his desk with it. Twenty minutes later, Chris returned his completed worksheet and said, “So much for the bad handwriting!” Chris’s second worksheet was amazing; I’ve attached it so that you can see the thoughtfulness, the elaboration, and yes, the excellent handwriting. Chris’ confident smile seemed to say, “gotcha, Ms.Milan!” It occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever seen this student smile. I told him that I was so proud of his work and that I knew he was always capable of performing at this level. While Chris was struggling at school and even at Aim High, he was always holding this amazing potential–not just to complete an assignment with nice handwriting–but to engage with a question and produce something he is really proud of. This wasn’t the first time someone told Chris that his story mattered. In fact, I told him this last summer, but Chris needed consistency to know that his voice mattered, that his potential existed, and that his teachers believed in him, even when he was not producing his best work. Aim High makes a four-year commitment to kids and families. We create a purposeful and deliberate community of care and high expectations. Chris experienced the power of this commitment and community over the past two summers. He has had more chances to discover his own potential and he is now poised for success because of Aim High.