My Voice My Community
What Do Crossing Guards, Zookeepers, and 2nd Graders Have in Common?

Finding the Helpers Within the Community and the Class

“Last week, we talked about community helpers: who are they, and how do they help?” teacher Kathleen Wainwright reminded her class at Overbrook Education Center, a unique school where 80% of the students have a visual impairment. “Who can we 2nd graders help and how?”

Immediately, half the hands in the classroom shot up.

“Boy Scouts help! We do fundraisers for homeless people, and toy drives for kids,” one young man volunteered.

“I help people who need help carrying their bags and bringing their garbage cans up,” said another student.

“We can all stop destroying the earth! We can recycle and not litter and save animals. Leatherback sea turtles eat plastic bags because they think they’re jellyfish and they choke!” came an impassioned plea from a third.

“We can stop bullying and be nice,” offered another.

“These are very interesting ideas,” Kathie responded. “How can we be aware of our actions so we don’t hurt peoples’ feelings or cause problems by accident? How does knowing something is an issue change your behavior from not knowing?”

A dozen second graders, who just moments before had been tripping over each other to list ways that they could help make their community better, were dumbstruck by this question from their teacher.

“It gives us something to think about, right? Let’s look at our community helpers: who do they help, and how?” Kathie asked, expertly connecting the big question back to the specific lesson at hand.

The students each selected a helper from the list, and soon they were crafting sentences to describe the important ways in which police officers, parents, teachers, crossing guards, librarians, the president, and even zookeepers help make our community a better place.

Reflecting on how her students were beginning to connect the dots between “grown ups” who help and their own ability to help others, Kathie remarked: “This is how teaching should be.” We couldn’t agree more.