The collection of water bottles on the floor of my backseat can only mean one thing: home visits are well underway at Rocketship. Almost every parent offers a cool bottle of water and when visiting up to eight homes a day; the back seat of my car is where these half drank bottles end up.
Every Rocketship teacher can agree that a perk that comes with going into the homes of our students is the food, which is offered almost as frequently as the water bottles. One family that I have visited several times over the years (two home visits and a couple of birthday parties) know that I enjoy mole and have cooked it for me each time I visited. Another family I have visited twice, again on repeated home visits as I taught both of their daughters, found out I like flan and prepared a double flan cake to bring home to my family.
Since I began teaching at Rocketship, I have visited more than 150 families (though my first home visits consisted of nervous and awkward conversations, sometimes fumbled through in my very poor Spanish). These visits have become one of my favorite things about the beginning of the school year. I learn more about my students their families, and, as I have come realize, myself on these visits than anything else I do as a teacher.
Over the four years that I have experienced visiting students’ homes, I have had some amazing and unique experiences. I have visited soccer games, birthday parties, BBQs, first communions and dance performances. I have held babies, puppies, lizards, bunnies and even a duck. Yes, a duck. I have had to rely on my GPS to direct me to single family homes, apartments, converted garages, homes with multiple families renting single rooms and even a women’s shelter. Each time, I feel humbled and thankful that the family has invited me into their home, allowing me to share an intimate part of their lives.
It is an amazing thing to go to a home more than once to visit the same family as their children come one by one into my classroom. The second visit is less academic, like you are part of the family or an old family friend. The conversation is more relaxed, the company more intimate. Parents ask a lot about my family, my daughter and my husband. They know me and I know them.
I have students that spent time in my classroom when they were very young, attending community meetings with their older siblings. They remember their brother or sister beginning their school career in my classroom and look forward to doing the same. One little boy drew me pictures as a three-year-old and then saw them on my wall when he walked into my class as a kindergartener.
This year was the first time I went to a home visit with one family for a third time, having taught all three of their daughters. The mother’s eyes welled up with tears as she thanked me for all I had done for her children. My eyes began to tear up as well. I tried my best to explain how I too felt immense gratitude…this family had done just as much for me.
When I came to Rocketship I was an outsider. I was new to the city, the community and to the school. Now, four years later, I feel deeply rooted in the community. Rocketeer families have been an amazing part of that transformation. Community is about giving and sharing, and home visits have opened the door for the both. As one student’s father told me recently while handing me a piece of pie, “It’s for your husband. You take care of my family, I would like to take care of yours.”
Chelsea is the Kindergarten Lead at Los Sueños, where she has been teaching for four years. Originally from Seattle, Washington she graduated from University of Washington with a B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Chelsea enjoys being an integral part of her students’ development as their first teacher at Los Sueños. On the weekends, she spends time visiting the Campbell farmers market and other Bay Area attractions with her husband and 13 year old daughter.