Monthly Archives: December 2006

Holiday break wrap-up

Well, we had our final Project MARCH meeting for the year Wednesday afternoon. Between the struggles of getting the local pizza place to deliver (they’re not so hot about driving through the projects) and so forth, the meeting lasted for over 2 hours. But, in the end, we got some stuff hammered out and got ourselves oriented for the second half of the year.

The main issues involved were dealing with transitions in the homework club and getting all the homework clubs on the same page, re: procedures, rules and schedules.

The former is a big issue because, at least in our club, the whole afternoon is one big transition rather than a set of distinct, individual transitions. The first graders are done with their homework often within a half-hour of their arrival. But we’ve got at least 2 and sometimes three waves of other kids coming in afterward at about 15-30 min intervals. So everyone’s getting done at different times and there’s rarely a time when everyone is done with their homework at once. This makes it hard to manage, because those who are done get bored and want to go outside to play, but we can’t do that and leave those who have just arrived and who aren’t done with their homework alone in the club. It doesn’t help that the late arrivals are the older kids who have more and harder homework – meaning that they often take the entire rest of the afternoon to finish, if they get done by closing at all. And it’s rare that everyone who’s done wants to go out – there’s always a few who want to stay in and play games, so we can’t just split up into two groups (which, with two of us on duty, would be doable).

And that’s not even taking into account the disruption of snack. Gah.

Anyway, our supervisor’s going to be working on it over the next few days. Hopefully, she’ll have some great ideas for us after the break.

The latter issue I’m a bit more skeptical about. The problem with aligning all the different homework clubs is that we each have unique issues, needs and concerns. Some clubs have a lot of kids, others have just a few. Some have lots of volunteers, others have almost none. Some have Hispanic families, others have African-American kids and there’s even a healthy population of Russians and Eastern European immigrants in one club – each with their own ethnic, cultural and situational differences. What works for the quiet, respectful Eastern European kids may go over like a lead balloon with the hip, urban African-American kids and be completely incomprehensible to the Hispanic kids. Plus, each of the Americorps teams has varying resources and responsibilities that make running each club a unique process.

I know why our supervisor wants to streamline these things – it’s hard to supervise several independent and autonomous programs bearing little or no correlation to each other – but I’m just not sure how far it can be taken and still be functional, given the individual needs each club has. I’m all for trying, mind. I’m just not sure how it’s going to work out.

Other than that, it was just a matter of synchronizing our calendars, airing any difficulties, getting some ideas from the other club staff and calling it a day.

Oh, we did, indeed, eventually get our pizza in the end. So all is right with the world. Happy Holidays, and see you next year!

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Free at last, free at last…

Okay, so not exactly. We do have a ‘wrap meeting’ tomorrow afternoon. But for all intents and purposes, work is over until school starts up again on Jan 2. Today, we had cake and chaos as the kids were out of school at noon, just like we were, and were none to shy about expressing their enthusiasm for being beyond the reach of adult oversight, albeit a tad prematurely.

After cake, a goodly portion decided they simply couldn’t sit still any longer and signed out early, taking the Christmas presents and high-octane excitement with them. A few diehards stayed with Sarah and I to watch the end of Polar Express before being sent on their merry way.

The resulting quiet was like the nectar of the gods to my frazzled nerves. I am looking forward to a few weeks of it with what passes for desperate longing, although I don’t really have the energy left over to really pull that off to full effect.

“Now Soni,” you might be saying to yourself, “why so excited to get away from work? I thought you were all about saving the world and stuff. If that’s the case, then why do you want to get away from it so much?”

Well, let me tell you a dirty little secret about serving with Americorps…c’mon, come a little closer…closer…wait, that’s too close. Excuse me…

Okay, the secret is this – serving with Americorps is a JOB. Yes, given the fact that you’re working with a non-profit to improve the world around you, it’s most likely a very important and often inspiring job. But it’s still a job. And by this time of the year, you also know whether it’s a job you love, a job you hate or, like most jobs, a job that’s okay/meh, but that you don’t mind taking some time off from whenever you can.

If it’s like many Americorps positions, it’s also long, hard work against a relentless current of circumstances that are out of your control and that are trying to undo your work as fast as you can get it done. People get poor and threatened with homelessness faster than Habitat for Humanity can build houses, they get hungry and lonely and depressed faster than Meals On Wheels can deliver hot food and a cheerful smile, and they fall through the cracks faster than all of us put together can fill in the gaps.

It doesn’t make the work any less worth doing. On the contrary, it makes every day we can be there, every one we can reach out to and every hand we can grab a precious and worthwhile gem beyond price.

But damn, it’s good to get away once and a while. It’s nice to recharge your batteries in the arms of friends and family. It’s nice to sleep in until daylight actually rules the land and the cats start dramatically collapsing onto your face from starvation to get your attention. It’s nice to just sit on the porch wrapped in a soft blanket and spend the afternoon assimilating a good book, a glass of wine and the last bits of warm sunshine, while the neighborhood-adopted stray tomcat enthusiastically polishes off the last of the cat food you put out for him (which he’ll get to, as soon as he finishes what the other 3 tenants in the building have left out – damn cat eats better than I do. LOL!)

Anyway, it’s Christmas break and time for me to chill out for a few weeks and reabsorb some of the energy I’ve put into the job…er, service so far. I like the job just fine. But for now, I’m headed for a long-overdue spate of absolutely nothing, thank you very much.

I’ll probably check in tomorrow after the meeting, just to be thorough. But if I don’t, have a happy winter holiday of your choosing and an equally happy new solar circuit. 😀

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Almost there…

Tomorrow is the last day before Christmas break. You can tell it’s getting close because there’s almost nothing to do. 😀 At my morning site, I basically did a bit of housekeeping records stuff (I can’t compile and turn in the morning records until I get back in Jan – they’re not due until that Fri anyway – since there may well be volunteers in the various offices while I’m out) and puttered around the office watching my supervisor’s head spin trying to sort and deliver an office full of Santa donations for underprivileged kids.

As for the afternoon, we had one of our colleagues on hand to help the day go by smoothly. It was a gorgeous day outside, so we took advantage of it to finish up our Service project (except for the post test) by sending them out to the picnic table behind the club to make Christmas cards for the kids at the homeless shelter. Word of advice – when excess quantities of glitter are involved, outside is definitely the way to go.

Due to our first service component (an actual visit to the shelter) falling through and delaying our timeline, we’re going to have to wait until after holiday break to do the post-test, but other than that it worked out really well. The cards all looked nice and the kids had fun, plus we got to talk to them about how it would feel to be a kid spending Christmas in a shelter. Shaping young minds, we are. Yessiree…

Anyway, tomorrow is the last day and I’ll be totaling up all the vital digits for the afternoon site (which most assuredly won’t be operating during the break) and getting all that ready for our last meeting Wed. After that, I’m done until Jan 2.

Don’t know if I’ll keep blogging here or not during the interim – maybe if I run across some interesting Americorps news or some such. Otherwise, probably not. But I’ll be back in ’07, so just hang tight.

Tomorrow, we party. Gifts go out. Cake will be eaten. Movies will be watched. Huzzah!

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Short meeting, long day

We had a real short last meeting of the year this morning – just a few hours going over some basic reminders for end-of-year wrap up, and a few calendar issues. But since Mr. Pitts was working on something that couldn’t be stopped just to come pick me up, I ended up hanging around the office checking my email, mooching some free potluck lunch down at the Community Relations office (apparently it’s a yearly tradition) and sitting for an hour or so on a hard wooden bench reading and waiting for my ride.

It’s always the same thing around holidays and other large breaks in routine – the last few days are always sort of a productive limbo, since all existing projects need to be wrapped up before lights out and no new ones are being started until after everyone gets back. Of course, I’ve got buttloads of record keeping to wrangle come Monday and Tues (it’s one of those last-minute finishes), but otherwise not much is going on.

The same thing is going on with the kids. This close to the holidays, homework is getting scarce and with it goes any semblance of chill. There’s too much “SCHOOL’S OUT!!!!” anticipation in the air and not enough ongoing work to keep the critical-mass chain reaction of devolving attention spans and increasing restlessness in check. Mon and Tues should be fun…not.

Anyway, so that’s my day.

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Just the facts…

School will be out the 19th, which means that both of my assignments will also be ending on that date (for this year, anyway. I’ll be right back at it come January). This also means that by the time I clock out of our Homework Club Holiday Party at around 5:30 pm Tues afternoon, I need to have the following tied up in a bow and ready to go to the office on Wednesday:

Morning site:
List of all volunteers and hours served, plus the complete list of students they’ve served.

Afternoon site:
Copy of the roster, attendance for the year to date, copies of all the sign-in sheets for students, a list of all volunteers and their hours served/work done, in addition to copies of our snack calendar which tracks what we served when (for resupply info).

I think there may be more, but that’s all I can remember off the top of my head. Luckily, there’s a meeting tomorrow so I can confirm all of this and make sure I’m turning in everything that needs to be turned in. In triplicate, if necessary.

Luckily, I’m an obsessive record keeper (if you want something detailed and fiddly done right, give it to the chick with the borderline OCD diagnosis).

I’m one of those folks whose first thought in response to nearly any challenge is “I’m gonna need to set up a spreadsheet.” And I am thinking it with glee, do you hear. Glee!

I get all shivery at the thought of setting up an organizational system, often coming up with something that is way over-powered for the need. As a result, a lot of my organizational systems resemble the proverbial brick shit-house with stained-glass windows – an immoderate level of architectural extravagance, given what’s going on inside.

For example, when report cards come out we’re supposed to make copies of them to give to the office. Well, it just so happens that part of our new equipment when we started up was a nice little multi-function scanner/copier/fax/printer. So instead of simply making hard copies, I just naturally and without much thought scanned each report into the computer, then printed it out.

When my supervisor called for them, I asked her if she wanted the hard copies, a disk with the electronic copies, or one of each. She was incredulous (in a good way) that I had both. On the other hand, I was a bit disappointed that the computer doesn’t have scan-to-text software, so I could have the original scanned images translated into text documents for searchability.

I’m such a geek.

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The cycle of (Americorps) life

Food stamps are in! Wohooo!

However, as a result, I am now chock full of eggplant parmesan, a mixed-greens salad with zesty Italian dressing, a Heath Bar and several small, but potent, glasses of Merlot (no, you can’t get that with food stamps – I splurged to go with the entree). So, I’m too well-fed and fuzzy to blog tonight.

S’okay. Nothing much happened anyway, other than enjoying a nice walk in the near-sixty degree sunny weather.

Oh, and we got the homework club’s tree decorated today. Happy Ho Ho!

And my shoulder hurts bad today. So, I’m going all out on the “no pain…no pain” route. Mmmm…Merlot.

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On the other hand…

On the one hand, today’s afternoon was enlightening. We had our regular (and by regular, I mean second) meeting with us, our supervisor and the housing development administration. At this meeting, I learned that due to a new granularization of control in the housing authority, each housing development will become an autonomous unit, rather than continuing to be a “pod” overseen by a central housing authority. I’m sure there are many pluses and minuses on each side of that issue, and I don’t know enough about any of it to judge jack squat, but I do know that it means a lot of changes and upheaval in the way the community is run, some of which is bound to affect our homework club directly (again, some good and no doubt some bad). Also fun is that the development where we’re based has just found out that…ta da!…they get to go first in this city-wide Balkanization process! Wheeee!!! Everyone involved seems thrilled. No, really…okay, not so much. But whatcha gonna do? Should be interesting, if nothing else.

On the other hand, the afternoon was pretty calm, in terms of dealing with the kids. They all seemed to be behaving on their every-day goodish behavior, everyone got done with homework early who didn’t get in late from being in extended day schooling and they really got into making the paper angel decorations for the tree. So, that was fun.

On the other hand, what is it with kids and this seemingly constant inflow and outflow of fighting? Today they’re best friends, tomorrow they’re hated enemies. Next week, indifference reigns once again. Gah. Today we had some sort of inter-group feud going on between the Hatfields and the McCoys, as it were. Like I said before, pretty much everyone in the club is related – either as direct siblings, half-sibs or cousins. So it’s not just sibling rivalry or friend fights. It’s inter- and intra-family conflict. And we all know how much fun that can be (Thanksgiving at the in-laws, anyone?). *le sigh*

On the other hand, it was a tasty day. Snack was toasted raisin bread with cream cheese and jelly, and a side of donated organic peach yogurt. Mmmm…luscious dairy goodness in every bite.

And now all of my hands are tired. I’m going to bed.

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