Tag Archives: College for Certain

Fifth Grade: Big Dreams in Their Hearts

Today I sat at my back table during recess and listened. Three boys and three girls huddled around a group of desks and discussed their futures while they graded papers instead of going outside to play.

“Which college do you plan to attend?”

“What do you want to do when you grow up?”

I was just as amazed by their questions as I was by their answers. Children who will be the first in their families to go to college, some of whose parents work for minimum wage, answered in detail. They offered the names of obscure colleges, ones which require actual consideration instead of the obvious “Harvard because I’ve heard it’s the best” or “Sac State because it’s here.”

“I plan to be a lawyer,” said a boy who likes to argue. I often question whether he hears me when I tell him he is a born leader. He may not always act like one, but I see it in him. I also tell him he should grow up to be a lawyer. I guess he listens more than I realize.

“I plan to be a fashion designer or a doctor,” said a girl whose family does not speak English. She is undauntedly focused. Last year she wrote me a letter about how sad it makes her when other students disrupt and keep her from learning. If anyone deserves to succeed, it is this child.

I busied myself with the mess at my back desk and allowed their college talk to wash over me. Part of me was afraid that if I really listened I might cry. These are kids I have loved for nearly two years who will leave me in less than two months. Without realizing it, I am beginning to detach. Still, I am comforted to know they will leave my classroom with big dreams in their hearts. I hope they last.

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College for Certain

The charter school organization that I work for has a slogan, College for Certain.

Today, I watched what this means in my classroom.  After a field trip to Sac State yesterday, my students came in eager to talk about college.  Finally able to run their own morning meetings, I eavesdropped from my back table as our Husky of the Day, (our classroom is UW themed),  decided to ask the group where they wanted to go to college.

One by one they eagerly shared their top picks.  Duke, Harvard, UCLA, Sac State, UC Davis, Stanford…  An eclectic mix, no doubt, but a much more thought-out selection than you would have received at my predominantly white, middle class elementary school in fourth grade.

Listening to their lists, I was struck by the significance of their self-created conversation.  They nodded in support as new colleges were introduced and gave excited connection signals when their favorite schools were mentioned.  Some kids had already picked their future college roommates among their classmates.

It reminded me of my first experiences teaching as a guest teacher at a private school in East Sacramento.  There I had been blown away by the conversations that third graders would approach me with– “Ms. O’Bryon, would you like to hear my top five list of colleges?”

College, I thought, aren’t you a little young to have that list prepared?

Young or not, I’m glad that my students, a diverse mix of predominantly low-income kids, are receiving the inspiration necessary to share the same goals with their more affluent peers on the other side of town.


Every Friday is college shirt day at my school. My favorite, above, features all of the colleges that our students were accepted to last year.

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