After leading a creative writing apprenticeship for Citizen Schools last spring, I wanted to try something new. The non-profit, which places volunteer Citizen Teachers into under-resourced middle-schools, agreed to my running a class using the curriculum of my client, Fit Kids, which provides structured fitness programs for under-served youth.
This cross-client collaboration would impact the students through physical activity that promotes better health and social-emotional learning in areas such as teamwork and communications that are among the 21st Century Skills that Citizen Schools emphasizes. The collaboration also would serve Fit Kids by infusing a new level of front-line experience into the marketing communications services I provide.
Campaign ideas stemmed from the journal each student kept, which helped identify those who were most engaged and articulate. Early in the series of classes, Miguelito showed himself both as a top athlete and remarkably attuned to social emotional values. In just a few minutes with my voice recorder and Fit Kids’ go-to photographer Gino De Grandis, Miguelito made our work easy on this piece of fundraising collateral.
From the jump, leading the class was a blast — and a challenge. Citizen Teachers usually pair with an AmeriCorps teaching fellow, but logistics at McKinley this fall occasionally left me alone and without access to a gym, trying to teach 25 students, including several who spoke only Spanish. Years of coaching youth sports often reminded me how much I still had to learn, never more so than this year.
One way to confront the discipline issues that arose was to promise end-of-semester awards tied to the fitness testing within the Fit Kids curriculum. I often reminded students they could earn prizes not just for raw feats of fitness but also for showing the greatest improvement.
That approach encouraged greater focus and effort from both the best athletes and the less-talented. Most, on one level or another, seemed to strengthen their social-emotional character traits, such as determination and persistence.
For each of Fit Kids’ four fitness measures, we awarded medals to the boy and girl who performed best and who improved most. Some students won both medals in a given category. The top medalists were Diana, who proved her versatility and consistency…
…and Miguelito, who performed an astonishing 301 sit-ups.
Perhaps the biggest winner was the student whose journal entry committed himself to a longer fitness journey.
That student’s enthusiasm, expressiveness, and room for improvement in his writing may lead me next semester to run classes in both fitness and creative writing.