During shelter-in-place, we have been reaching out to our Aim High educators for guidance on maintaining connection and community. Today, we’re sharing reflections from Michelle Cody, an Aim High graduate who is the founding site director for our Bayview campus at Willie Brown Middle School. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What advice do you have for helping students stay meaningfully connected?
For us adults, it means creating opportunities for students to get online with their classmates in a controlled situation so that everyone feels safe. We need to try to use social media for good. How can we connect online in a healthy and positive way? Also, students may want to write letters or keep a journal or a diary to stay grounded. Kids can teach or create something and share it with their teachers or friends. Remembering who they are and expressing their personality is super important.
I also want to recognize that some kiddos are in households that are unable to support them, either financially or emotionally. So more than ever, we need to get creative about allowing students a space or an outlet where they can connect. That natural hanging out at the park or at school has been taken away because of social distancing. A kid can be an only child and feel human connection, and a kid can be in a house full of people and not feel a connection. Identifying what they need and being able to reach out and give back a piece of humanity is important.
Which Aim High CORE values (Community, Opportunity, Respect and High Expectations) are most relevant during this time?
Community and Opportunity. Students need to find community within themselves and their loved ones. They need to do their part and realize that everyone is in this together. It might be exceptionally hard, and that’s okay. Sometimes we need to go through things that are extremely hard.
This is an opportunity to try something different. Make some art, read a book, try a recipe, watch a video, try to grow something or build something new. Take this opportunity to slow down and breathe and see what you can do to be your best version of yourself. I think it’s an opportunity to self-care.
As your teacher, I don’t want you to feel frustrated. I don’t want you to feel an incessant need to work yourself into a frenzy. If you do feel overwhelmed, I know it’s hard to deal since you can’t go hang out with friends. Reach out to someone you trust for support.
What do you want students to remember right now?
People are trying to survive and trying to take care of themselves during this pandemic. People don’t have the opportunity to be their best selves all the time. It’s okay if you are struggling.
Remember that adults are trying their best, but we aren’t our best selves all the time, either. Since distance learning was implemented, my workday has become a lot longer. I’m at my house, and there is no break. I’ve picked up some of my old habits that I don’t like as much. Part of that is not okay, but part of what’s happening is that I need to try to be kind to myself because this is uncharted territory.
I am hopeful. I just want to embrace all of my students and let them know that there is love going toward them, there is hope that’s going towards them. I want students and families and educators to dream big—dream vividly, dream in color, and be ready to take this world by storm.
Michelle has been inspiring Aim High students for nearly 20 years! Is there an Aim High teacher who has had an impact on your life? We’d love to highlight them on our social media for Teacher Appreciation Week in May. Fill out this nomination form and tell us all about them.