Whatever vocation you may have chosen, or happen to have fallen into somehow, there are bound to be some good times, some “eh” times, and some not so good times. Most, if not all, of the “eh” times will be forgotten. Variable portions of each of the good and not so good times will also be pushed either way down in our subconscious or completely eradicated from our memory. On the other hand, there are those really great moments that can be easily triggered and/or recalled at the drop of a hat. Some of those exceptionally memorable moments occurred while I was a 6th and 7th grade teacher at a place called Le Café.
Le Café came about for a few reasons. One was because the students needed more of an opportunity to grasp whichever topic(s) they may have been struggling with. Another reason was I wanted to give certain students more responsibility and leadership in the classroom. Also, the students sometimes either just wanted a place to feel safe and comfortable, wanted to help clean my desk and organize, or every now and then just hang out and talk about what was on their minds (after they tutored, received tutoring, or assisted me in some way, of course).
So, after getting the ok from administration and making sure they knew that it was the scholars choice if the wanted to “patronize”, Le Café was established. The students were clear on what the rules were and had a hand in them. It was strictly voluntary, and one could be disallowed due to behavioral issues and/or non-adherence to the rules while a “patron” at Le Café. Speaking of which, the goings on at Le Café, which basically was my classroom during my scheduled lunchtime, included peer tutoring, classroom organizing, homework help, writing workshop, interventions, chit-chat, and, of course, lunch. Some of the students brought their own lunch while others ate what the district provided them. On occasion, I’d surprise them with a healthy, often homemade lunch meal which they were ecstatic about.
The first week or so, the usual 4-8 students got their lunch and returned to Le Café. Almost immediately, the improvement in the participating students understanding of the subject(s) they were struggling with could be seen. And, you can bet they weren’t shy about showing me and other students who had yet to visit Le Café. Sure enough, word got around about how they were learning from the peer tutors and the atmosphere of Le Café. By week 3, there were at least 18-21 regular “patrons” at Le Café making notable contributions, learning, feeling good, getting to know me and vice versa, etc. Students from other classes got wind of Le Café and begged for entrance. I was told only my students were permitted. No matter what the weather, Le Café consistently was at least at half capacity of 15 students. There was so much learning, laughing, leadership, teaching, guidance, eating, etc., etc. going on. The best part was that they did it all without much from me. It was their café. They ran it, took care of it, owned it, enjoyed it, and sincerely liked it.
The countless times struggling students excitedly ran up to my desk screaming about how they now understand and can solve a math problem, write a certain type of sentence or poem, or answer a social studies question made three people’s day – the student who gained the knowledge, the peer tutor who volunteered his/her time and effort, and, of course, myself. The satisfaction and appreciation on the student’s faces as they consumed the healthy lunches I’d bring in along with the talks we’d have were not only informative, but heartwarming, bonding, and unforgettable as well. Le Café was the place to be! Little did they know, it did as much, if not more, for me as it did for them. Merci!