Child-Like Joy

Photo of Savannah Buckmaster

My day typically begins with waking up at the latest possible time I can while still being able to prepare for my morning. I will do my morning offering and eventually make my lunch and pack my bag with the things I will need for the day while chatting with Chloe and Cristo.

Once I get to CYO, I promptly leave in a 12-passenger van to begin transportation for the Youth Program’s Morning Academy that I help to run. The Morning Academy is an academic program aimed at providing newly placed refugee youth with the opportunity of taking English classes to be able to feel prepared for entering into the Syracuse City School District a few months after their arrival. The Morning Academy takes up the bulk of my day and responsibilities with the Youth Program at CYO. I am the lead teacher for the k-3 class, meaning I get to work with the youngest division of kids that come into our programs. Each day of class is a bit different, as we have weekly curriculums that we follow ranging from teaching about introducing ourselves to school vocabulary. The kids also get the opportunity to participate in specials where they get to play in the gym, learn to cook a recipe in the kitchen, and do some sort of art activity. At lunchtime, Academy ends for the day and I collect my students to take back home. The rest of the day typically involves a good amount of cleaning, meetings, and the occasional school pickup for newly placed students or taking high school students to different appointments, meaning a more relaxed afternoon.

Thursdays are my especially busy days because the Youth Department co-teaches with members from the School District’s English New Learners (ENL) department to conduct “native language lessons” where we break the students up into groups and teach a review of the weekly lesson in the students’ primary languages. If we have any French-speaking families in the program, then I teach the lesson, but if not, then I assist with classroom management support for a different, larger group. Afterwards in the afternoon, the Youth Department conducts Family Night, where we invite cohorts of students who have left our programs to begin school to come back for snacks and fun activities to socialize with old friends. While family night can be a bit tiring after a long day, it is a lot of fun to see former students and get to hear about how school is going for them.

At the end of the day when I get home, I like to hang out for a bit before dinner. This can involve watching some TV, having a snack, or drawing to decompress. I love when it is my night to cook dinner because I find that cooking to be a way to relax. The day ends with time in community prayer and downtime.

I think the biggest high of being in the Youth Department at CYO is getting to work with my students in the Morning Academy class. Seeing the progress that kids have from their first day when they are crying in the doorway afraid to leave their parents or siblings to go to class, to leading in classroom participation towards the end of their time at CYO. It really is a powerful reminder to me that in guiding and supporting these children, I am helping them be prepared for whatever comes next.

The day does not come without its difficulties I will admit. There are days that my class will be beyond capacity in numbers, and I have to learn how to manage a classroom with 18 different extreme needs, meaning the behavioral challenges the students have can be a bit hard to navigate. Despite feeling frustrated when I’m struggling with classroom management, I find ways to make the most out of the experience, not only for me but for the kids I am serving. I am being taught to look at everything with a child-like joyfulness because there are some times when that is all I can do.

Categories: General

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