Elizabeth Miller: At this Portland school, what teachers want is for kids to feel joy again in learning
Writing for OPB, Elizabeth Miller profiles East Portland’s Prescott Elementary and its response to the weight of current crises.
“The thing I hope most for the kids this year is that the harm of the pandemic… and the trauma of the pandemic is lessened to some degree by our joy at being together in class,” Marsh said.
On the same day in another Prescott classroom, fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Jasmine Lowe oversees her students as math class wraps up. In the last few minutes of class, Lowe allows students to play learning games on their computer. Others are watching intently as two classmates play chess on a big mat spread out on a table.
This year, she wants her students to learn empathy and social skills they may have missed the last two years, in addition to academics.
“I hope that they learn and grow academically in their reading, in their math, in their writing, whatever. I just want to see growth,” Lowe says with a small laugh.
Later in the day, Prescott principal Nichole Watson greets students as they head to lunch. A school staff member stands next to a student holding a sign with lunch options. As students wait in line to head to the lunchroom, a few dance around or pull their masks up over their noses after a reminder. Watson greets a new student and asks his new classmates to welcome him.
“Will you show Kevin the ropes?” Watson asks a student, as a teacher directs them to show their “new friend” the way to lunch.
Watson wants her students to see school as a place of belonging despite the barriers both inside the school and outside of it.
“I want for the six hours that our babies are here for us to do the heavy lifting,” Watson said. “But I also want them to know, ‘as I walk into this building, I’m responsible for what I bring in it, I’m responsible for the energy, and though sometimes I don’t always come as my best self, I want them to know this space has room and capacity for them’.”