Wednesday morning was the second time I’ve had the opportunity to prepare a ten-minute reading for the summer school program at Oakhurst STEAM Academy. What they call a Harambee reader, is part of a half-hour psyche-up session for about fifty seven-eight-nine year olds.
The picture book I read – about an eight-year old boy learning to play lacrosse – was built around an Aesop’s Fables-type moral about “dependability.” Reading enthusiastically was a reminder of the SHOWTIME! of doing group kickoffs for three years in the scholastic fundraising days.
More directly, reading at Oakhurst stemmed from being aware of the Chetty Study, a Harvard/UC Berkeley project that correlated a link between 4th grade literacy and economic mobility. Economic mobility is how many children rise from the bottom of one economic quadrille to the top of it as an adult. That study showed Charlotte, NC has the lowest ranking (4.4%) of the largest fifty US cities, so it became an obvious place to put old SHOWTIME! abilities to good use.
My bottom-line in volunteering for short, meaningful opportunities to help with reading and writing is always, “Never let it be said…”
That the male voice was appreciated as such a significant factor in this setting wasn’t lost on the previous days reader, Steve Echenique, or myself, because the Freedom School sponsors regularly say its a presence the kids simply don’t get often enough. Bearded college volunteers are one thing, men with ties, yeah, it’s a different visual that counts.
These are actually the luckier kids, both because this program of two-3 week sessions takes some edge off the “knowledge drop” summer often brings, and there is a cereal and biscuit, milk/juice, fruit cup breakfast to start the day with.
For parents who don’t always know whether their kids are touched by enough of the right information you’ve tried providing for situations that may come, this audience raised their hands and responded. Having that level of connection with an energized and attentive group, it *should* put a little hop in your day.
Eye contact is at a premium in such presentations. 99% of the time, moving through your group and not just pontificating from behind a podium works best.
Having introduced the idea of writing this story for them based on Aesop’s “morals,” and shown them the covers of the binder really had nothing to do with the 8-year old boy in my story, two girls provided the correct moral, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Extend the positive vibe
Giving some attaboys! to the counselors here, or volunteers at other events, is a legitimate way for speakers to extend the positive impact of physically being there. Practice your good communications skills someplace besides a networking event. See who looks you in the eye, can articulate their young person ideas, knows why they’re there at 8 a.m. in the middle of June.
One-to-ones with a couple college students in this situation is a freebie – (almost) everyone likes talking about themselves – and nothings lost if you don’t get an impressive response.
Having participated in several Communities in Schools “social capital” programs this spring, complimenting high school students on their speaking without “umms, errs, y’knows” as out of the ordinary – and a factor easily noticed by adult others – was definitely a simple, effective teaching moment.
Communications: Oyster Roast meeting
Even as a homogeneous group of older guys in a community projects organization, it took over two hours to work through operational Q&A regarding our 5th annual Oyster Roast Wednesday night.
Oyster Roast is a mature product – we were tweaking things, not debating whether an idea will accomplish certain financial goals, or whether to attempt it at all. When 16 guys show up mid-week though, its a good problem to have a quantity-quality number of opinions in steering the club.
After working with friends and members on dozens of similar projects over the years, you develop a sort of shorthand communication, where a nod, thumbs up, or quick comment lets them know you’re clear on/in favor of what they just discussed, even if others might still be talking.
That doesn’t happen immediately, but having history with individuals usually makes things work easier. The fact we often view opportunities and challenges with very similar results-oriented reasoning or career training, is an organizational strength to draw on.
When it came to how the low-country boil is done for the Oyster Roast, the President answered as the man responsible for that aspect of four previous OR’s. The Community Development VP ticked off his list of pricing, marketing, and What abouts? as the guy who brought the unique idea to start with, and welcomes input like this to tweak the positives.
Finally, its elementally a 1-1 world. Speaking with the Prez about a specific lack of cooperation related to donuts at Meet & Greets after the official meeting, he said a roadblock for several years has been mostly negotiated with a parish official. The results, more suited to our needs without making a single change in an established system, was good news to end the day.
That operational block had bothered me for a while, and now its been pretty well fixed. Hurrah! for good communications.