A Day in the Life of a FoodCorps Service Member: East Hartford, CT

Coffee. Check. Lesson plans. Check. Planner. Check. Notebook #1. Check. Notebook #2. Check. Phone charger, wallet, name tag, pens, glasses. Check, check, check, check…..check. I take one last, fleeting look around the room as I lift my FoodCorps tote and throw it over my shoulder, followed by my beloved purse, and a large paper bag that houses a collection of assorted items including a container of dried kidney beans, a container of dried black-eyed peas, four packages of small brown paper bags, and four packages of clear plastic cups. A regular FoodCorps-mule. I grip my AmeriCorps thermos tightly in one hand and strategically position my keys in my other hand so I can easily lock the door to my apartment and then unlock my car. After a few slips of trying to twist the doorknob with my gloved hand, I close my eyes and let the Connecticut winter wind bite my cheeks.

My commute flies by as I repeatedly list the materials I am going to need for that afternoon, and I make a quick stop to buy a bag of potting soil and a to-go salad for lunch. I get to the school after the first bell has rung, avoiding the chaos of drop-off, which allows me to hobble towards the school, kind-of carrying, kind-of dragging seemingly everything I’ve ever owned without drawing too much attention to myself. I ring the school’s doorbell and wait for what feels like ages for the sound of the door clicking, as gravity pulls heavily on me and my cargo.

I dump all of my supplies onto the floor of the thankfully vacated office space that houses everything I have needed and could possibly need, and drop myself to sit criss-cross applesauce amidst my mess. I carefully reorganize everything for easy access during my lesson, knowing full-well that my tidy paper bag would look like a tiny tornado had struck it by the end of the hour. Feeling confident that I have remembered everything, and then some, I pull out Notebook #1 and proceed to write a lesson script that I will not look at one time while actually teaching.

I glance at the clock and jump up, slamming the lid onto my half-eaten salad, astounded once again at how rapidly the morning has rushed by. I pile everything back onto my body and glide down the hallway to the classroom, taking a deep breath before opening the door and stepping in. As usual, the roar of “MISS ABBY!” is deafening, and the teacher and I quickly remind the students to stay in their seats and stay focused until I am ready to begin—a tall order for the first graders who are well aware that we are going to see whether or not their “bean buddies” have grown in their baggies since I taped them to the window two weeks before.

As the students gather eagerly on the carpet, waiting for me to finish removing the beans from the frosted glass, I look over, possibly more excited than any of them.

“Do you think we were able to grow plants in the middle of winter?”

I can see each small body shake from excitement as they ask, “Did mine grow? Did mine grow?”

I carry one student’s bag to the circle, hiding it playfully with my hands, and sit on my chair, waiting as each student simultaneously scoots closer to my feet. I explain again the process of a plant’s growth and how we had predicted that some of the dried beans and peas we had “planted” using a wet cotton ball would, at least, sprout. Shouts, laughter, and the subtle sounds of movement fill the room as I show them a plant that had not just sprouted, but had grown long, grabby roots, a strong stem, and two giant leaves.

“Miss Abby, you grew plants in the winter!”

I shake my head and look around the room, taking in every glowing face, feeling time stand still as I absorb the moment to remember forever, “You grew plants in the winter.”

After a break to reset my materials and a quick lesson with my Kindergarteners, the school day ends, dismissal begins, and the sun’s rays feel refreshing as I stroll to my car. I sink behind the steering wheel, heaving my bags into the passenger seat beside me, and wait for the heat to fill up the air around me. Rummaging through the pile of artwork my students have gifted me, portraying plants in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, I allow my mind to flashback to every moment I have been in the school. I think about the way each student in my first grade class handled their plant with the utmost care, how my Kindergarteners proudly showed me that they had a vegetables for snack that day, and the magic of allowing my voice to be silent as the kids confidently sang the Six Plant Part song to me without any help.

My apartment is dark and quiet when I get home, but it is soon bathed in the warm, mixed light of lamps and candles. I allow the weight of my body to sink into the cushions of my couch, letting my feelings of pride for what I had accomplished and excitement for what was to come wash over me.

Excited to teach kids about healthy food? Learn how you can become a FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member like Abby at our Apply page.