We have this program in Missouri called A+.
Students can earn two years of free community service by meeting certain criteria.
Across four years of high school, students must a certain GPA, high attendance, and minimal discipline.
In addition, students must complete 50 hours of community service.
To provide an opportunity for community service, the school has set up a Students as Mentors program (SAM for short).
Seniors, and the occasional Junior, can sign up to be a SAM during school hours.
Basically, they spend an hour a day in a classroom as an on deck tutor.
The students are responsible for finding a host teacher to work for.
It becomes part of the student's schedule.
As a teacher of all freshmen, I LOVE this program.
Having a competent, and hopefully forceful, Senior helping my babies is awesome!
This semester, I have two SAM students.
One, let's call her Cassie, is in my 5th hour.
She is brassy, sassy, and bold.
Her initiative isn't as high as I might prefer, but once she figures out she can tell people what to do, she will be just fine.
Until then, she'll do homework when she thinks I'm not looking.
The other, let's call her Heather, will be in my fourth hour.
Heather and Cassie both had me for freshman English.
And both are exceptional young ladies.
Unlike Cassie, Heather is a gentler breed.
When I had her four years ago, she was constantly second guessing herself.
She also belonged in all advanced classes.
I moved her at the first opportunity, though it broke my heart to do it.
Let's face it, we have favorites and Heather is one of mine.
When she switched classes, even though she was only in 9th grade, I asked her to come be a SAM for me her Senior year.
She was excited and eager at the time.
Over the last few years, we have only crossed path occasionally, but we both remembered that deal.
So, finally, Heather is a SAM in my fourth hour.
My fourth hour is THAT class.
Not as much as first semester because of some schedule changes, but still, they are who they are.
In some ways, I would rather Cassie be with my brassy, sassy group.
I was a little nervous about it even.
Then the first day happened.
Heather doesn't second guess herself much anymore and she has enough initiative for three teenagers.
She came in the first day and I introduced her to the class.
We were watching a movie and taking notes.
She watched me circle the room, explain the assignment, get everyone started, and put out several little off task fires.
As soon as the film started, she plopped herself down with a chatty, needy bunch of boys and helped them.
It was hard for me not to shush them. REALLY hard.
But I decided to give her some space and trust that they were paying attention and talking about the film.
Turns out, that was a good decision.
That night, about five o'clock, I got an email from one of those boys.
It said "what was that girls name who helped me today? I want to tell her thank you"
That email made my day.
Aside from confirming my assumption that they were in fact working, and aside from bolstering my faith in Heather's value as a SAM, and aside from a kid using email to contact me, he wanted to thank her for her help.
For a teenager, especially one who doesn't play the game of school all that well, to ask, totally unsolicited, for a chance to thank someone for helping him with school work, that is something special.
The SAM program is a good thing.
My SAMs this semester so far (I am hoping for one or two more to be added to other sections next week), are already exceeding my expectations which is definitely a good thing.
A student openly expressed a desire to proclaim thankfulness: that might be the best thing.