The students were the ones that guided our teaching, more so than we could have imagined.
We didn’t know what to expect when we first walked into our GC classroom. Were these students going to be interested in what we had to say? Were they going to participate? Were they even going to listen to us? As we met before our first week of class, we ruminated over what kind of experience we were about to have.
After every class, we would sit together on the train back to the NYU campus and discuss what we were going to do next week, what we needed to do better, what we wanted to change, what we wanted to see happen. These little brainstorming sessions produced a series of plans that we wanted to implement but which we soon realized could never be completely set in stone. The class kept us on our toes, with different interests each week, different plans for us as mentors. The students were the ones that guided our teaching, more so than we could have imagined.
One of the greatest moments was at Civics Day. It wasn’t necessarily the moment the Change Maker Award touched the students’ hands. It was the moment when their eyes lit up as judges eagerly listened to them speak about teen unemployment and their job fair. It was the moment when Alexandria said to the judges, “We may not be 18 and able to vote, but we know we can still make a difference.” It was the moment they felt true support from the judges, who shared their personal contact information with the students. It was the moment when our teacher excitedly shared with them an email that she had just received, telling the students that their job fair idea had been accepted by the administration at their school. It was the moment when they started smiling, jumping up and down, and high-fiving because they knew their plan was going to be carried out with success.
We were both so impressed with our class when we had large scale discussions and each student became more and more passionate about issues, such as Stop-and-Frisk, teen unemployment, gang violence, and drug abuse. As they started to talk, they showed us just how knowledgeable and intelligent they were and that they would work hard to change something that they saw negatively affecting their community.
Later last week, our class representatives shared their positive experiences from Civics Day with their peers. They described the other great class presentations, and analyzed the positives and negatives of their own performances. The students felt that events like Civics Day were invaluable part of grassroots activism, and afterwards, they were motivated as ever to make a difference.