A Reflection by Diana Liggs, KidSmart Program Manager
KidSmart is BCM’s afterschool program which helps students develop a positive attitude toward school and learning. KidSmart also provides an opportunity for students to experience academic success. This is accomplished by providing an environment in which students develop more positive self-esteem through consistent encouragement. When we think back on KidSmart this past year, a couple of students stick out.
Owen* is a third grader who attends Brentwood Academy. The areas Owen needed to work on when he started attending KidSmart were reading comprehension and memorizing multiplication tables. At the beginning of the year Owen struggled to stay focused and motivated. We spoke to his teacher who informed us that he was having the same problems at school. We also spoke to Owen's mother about his KidSmart attendance—which was dwindling—and informed her that if his attendance didn't improve we'd have to drop him from the program. After all, how could we help Owen if he didn’t attend, especially when there were other kids on a waiting list who needed help too?
After that check-in Owen's attendance improved, but he still did not want to do homework, read or practice math facts. He actually fell asleep a couple of times while reading. Again, we contacted Owen's parents. This time we talked about the importance of getting him to bed early. Since then, he hasn't fallen asleep! Around the same time, we also checked in with Owen’s teacher. The teacher decided to set daily goals for Owen and asked that we check in with him too. This partnership between us and his teacher helps keep Owen accountable, and ultimately it helps him be a successful student.
Since February Owen's attitude has improved and he's doing much better. He is much more focused and motivated, and he has a desire to learn. When he encounters a new concept, Owen asks questions until he understands what is being taught. His teacher said that he has moved up a few levels in reading and agrees that he is much more focused. During KidSmart, Owen reads every day for 30 minutes (without falling asleep!) and answers questions based on what he read. His reading comprehension has improved and he actually enjoys reading especially with his tutors. His math skills are improving too. He practices his multiplication facts daily and is currently working on his 8's. At the rate he's going he should know his facts up to 12 by the end of the school year.
Owen is enthusiastic about learning and is proud to share his scores on tests and grades with his KidSmart classroom intern and the KidSmart manager. Most recently, Owen was excited to tell us he received a school award for "Most Effort." We’re so proud of Owen!
Danny* is a 6th grader. His biggest issues at the beginning of the year were attitude and organization. He just didn't want to be at KidSmart, and on top of that, he didn't think he needed the help. He was unorganized, forgetting to complete and turn in assignments, and generally had a negative attitude toward school and learning. Sometimes he outright refused to do his homework.
Now, his attitude is much better and he gets his homework done without too much complaint. (Do 6th grade boys ever do much of anything without complaining!?!). He seems genuinely pleased when he completes his homework and gets it correct. Danny's grades have improved and he brings in his test scores and shows them off with pride.
There are several things that helped create this attitude shift. By mid-year he was doing poorly in all his classes. He and his parents were called in to a meeting with the school counselor. For a short time he attended the school study hall, but said that they really didn't help him with his homework. He did not want to attend study hall. So, the KidSmart Manager and the Director of Ministries met with Danny. They told him if his attitude didn't improve he would have to attend his school study hall instead of KidSmart. During Danny’s renewed attempt at KidSmart, his tutors also became more familiar with him, learning how to help him—when to challenge him and when to back off. Maybe the most important thing is that this process was surrounded by a healthy dose of prayer.
Most of Danny's teachers give him a list of assignments for the week. His tutors help him plan out his studies and complete his assignments, as well as study for upcoming tests. He usually completes most of his homework. It was so rewarding to see this turn around in Danny’s life.
KidSmart student successes are due to the consistent encouragement of our dedicated team of interns and volunteers. The learning experience for each student is enhanced by maintaining an ongoing dialogue with each student's teacher and parent(s).