Against the odds, Colvin fourth-graders complete year-long homework goal

04/25/2014 10:38 AM

08/06/2014 11:06 AM

They did it.

Brianna Falvey’s class of fourth-graders at Colvin Elementary School in Wichita set a goal back in September: Every student in the class – every single one – would complete their homework for 100 consecutive days. No excuses, no exceptions.

The class hit a speed bump in October, when two students did not have their homework, and had to start back at zero.

But Friday was Day No. 100.

The banner outside the classroom door, which said “Everyone in Miss Falvey’s class has completed homework 99 days in a row,” finally hit triple digits.

As 10-year-old Inona Smith changed the number, she cried.

“Because I’m happy,” she said. “It makes me feel like tingly inside.”

Then pandemonium broke out. Students cheered and hugged one another. Laiden Vanarsdale turned to Falvey and said, “You said it would be difficult. But we did it.”

They did.

Despite naysayers who said the goal was out of reach, despite the setback in October that left some students in tears, despite starting over, despite a few letters and e-mails to Falvey telling her she must be the meanest teacher in the world, the fourth-graders completed their homework every evening and turned it in every morning.

“Sometimes I just wanted to go to my bed and not do my homework,” said Christina Gardea, 10. “But then I would think about the 100 days and how the other kids were counting on me, and I did my homework.”

The challenge galvanized the students and others at the school in Planeview, one of Wichita’s poorest neighborhoods, where nearly 98 percent of students are from low-income families. Along the way, Falvey said, they learned about persistence, teamwork and personal responsibility.

“They understand that their actions affect other people,” she said.

“When you do big things, when you push people to do more than what is normally expected, you’re going to get some resistance. They knew that. We talked about that.

“You’re also going to make mistakes. Things happen, and that’s OK. But if you really believe in something, you wipe away everything else, and you put your head down and just go. The kids were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to do this.’ It was all them.”

Now Falvey has to make good on her promise to the students. She told them if they achieved the homework goal, she would dye her hair orange – Syracuse orange, the same shade she painted one wall of her classroom because she’s a fan of the Orangemen – and wear a prom dress to school.

Her salon appointment is 10:30 a.m. Saturday. She’ll wear the dress Monday.

The kids, meanwhile, have earned some cash from a donor in Washington, D.C., a friend of Falvey’s who read about the students’ goal and pledged to give the class $10 for every day of completed homework. Assuming everyone keeps completing their homework until the end of the school year, they’ll get $1,370, Falvey said.

The kids voted to spend some of the money on a field trip to All Star Adventures – “just a food and tokens free-for-all,” the teacher said, smiling – because none of the kids has ever gone there. The rest, they’ll use to treat themselves and four other Colvin classes to a Wichita State University baseball game.

“I feel very excited because people said we couldn’t do it, but we did it,” said Fabian Holguin, 10. “I knew we could.”

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