The Kids Teach the Teachers

Libby Monahan is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, MA

The thing that attracted me to Citizen Schools the most was that not only are they working on closing the achievement gap, but they also recognize that the achievement gap is much more complex than just academics. They work towards closing an opportunity and access gap as well.

I work as a Citizen Teacher Lead for the Orchard Gardens School. So I have the opportunity to work with all of our students and teachers, and work with our apprenticeship programs, to provide that access and opportunity to our students.

My team of students last year challenged me to be a teacher, and they taught me how to be a teacher. One of my closest students to me, her name is Julienette. And I would credit her with being the student who taught me how to be not only a teacher, but just a providing and caring adult for a student.

Julienette was one of those girls who ran with the popular girls, and you know, she thought she was too cool for school, was consistently getting D’s and F’s in all of her classes, and couldn’t have cared less. No matter how much I pushed her, she was not budging.

So, one day, I was down in the main office doing door duty, and she was with her tutor, and she walked away from her tutor, came into the office, sat down in the chair next to me, didn’t say anything, and just started crying. And I had no idea why. I was right out of college, and never had a student sit there and cry to me before, so I was very out of my element.

And she just told me she had been being bullied, and that’s why she wasn’t caring about school. It was her best friend that had been bullying her, and peer pressuring her into doing negative things...

That presented me with an opportunity, and a window, to really provide impact in one student’s life. And since then, I paid for her to go to our Thompson Island Summer Project program. I’ve worked with her throughout the summer; I’ve worked with her throughout the school year, and really became more than a teacher. I became a mentor to her.

And I think I’ve seen change in her from over the summer, and I see change in her this school year, and it’s just a good story to tell when you think about the work that we do, and that it’s not only about getting their grades up. It’s about helping them become whole people, and that’s why I do the work that I do.