Monday, September 20, 2010

Super Seniors and Hilarious Helpers

The library officially opened for visits today, which made things hectic. It was also the first day of a Lyons senior study hall class, which had me a tad nervous. I went upstairs to talk to Taeko about who was going to be in the class as I hadn't received a roster yet and to try to guage the level of formality that would be expected of me. I had already been told it would tie in with the college/career search activities planned for this year, but I wondered if they were also expecting mini-lessons on study skills at the beginning if class, exit tickets stating what had been studied and such. Taeko said she was looking for some degree of formality and that exit tickets might be a good idea.

When the time for study hall came I was ready for some pushback. These kids are great but I've seen them be super resistant to any instruction they don't see a specific use for, even when it's coming from a very well-meaning teacher. I took it easy for the first day as the kids streamed in and gathered at a table near the back, except one, H., who often seems to like to go her own way. She took a table a little way away from the rest. What was amazing was how quickly everyone got down to work. Those who didn't have specific homework assignments took out books to read. Only a few short minutes into the class period, the room was virtually silent.

Late comers entered and were greeted with whispers. Have I actually seen these students grow up since Fall 2008? What a difference since I'd first met them! Some growth may be due to their own inevitable trek toward adulthood, but much may be attributable to Lyons for caring enough about them to give them the space they needed to grow and the opportunities to see how the world works both inide of and outside of the classroom, allowing them to become independent, responsible young people.

Later, my first after-school open time got off to a good start with a few middle school regulars at the door immediately after Lyons let out. It was good to see them. A., who has called me Grandpa since the first time he met me, was the only rowdy one of the middle school crowd, causing a few of the others to hit him and shove him away as he harried them at their computers. As usual, he said he was bored. I've yet to find anything that will hold A's interest for any length of time, but I'm sure we'll hit on something.

At 4:00, suddenly and without warning, I was stormed by a group of Green School juniors, swarming around my desk. The last to enter was K., whose favorite thing to do is library work. She had come into to the library last week and saw I had a cart full of books with bar code and spine labels waiting to be affixed and dug right into the work, even though I was still planning my schedule and hadn't officially opened yet. That day, there had only been time to do few of the books waiting to processed.

K. strode in and extricated the cart from behind my desk and said, "Hey guys let's get to work helping Mr. Matthew," and the astounding part was, they all did!

K. explained to them how to make sure to match the bar code label to the title and to the spine label. Before I turned around, a boisterous assembly line (well, more like an assembly clump) was hard at work processing the backlog.

As they worked, they created a hilarious, politically incorrect, off the wall bawdy song that started with T. chanting something that rhymes with "I'm suing your mother right now," followed by Ch. adding a new contrapuntal layer with related lyrics, C. came in with some accompanying vocalizations and, finally, Ce., with her big, piercing voice and clear, crisp Brooklynized Caribbean enunciation topped it off with an absolutely blue rhyme. Props to the creativity!

They were able to reproduce it several times over and, musically, it sounded better every time, although the lyrics were enough to make a sailor blush. At 4:30 I told them it was time to go and they said they wanted to stay until 5:00. I managed to pry them all out and as they bumped each other through the door, Ce. elbowed T., who collapsed and ended up being dragged down the hallway by K., Ce. and Ch. as C. trailed along behind. They, too, have come a long way since I first met them, without losing their sense of fun and playfulness. I can't wait to see how this year will shape up for them.

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