This week former Fellow Emma Thorp shares her thoughts about continuing the tradition of Cookie Monday this year as we continue our Summer Fellow's Final Reflections series. Emma will be continuing on at Penn Treaty High School this year as Site Director.
Scattered chocolate chips. Sugar cookie crumbs. A hollow, ceramic cow.
These images all add up to a constant that has comforted me during a year where I changed more than I thought I could. These last nine months have made me grow in ways I didn’t know I could grow. I learned to talk to people in ways I never knew existed. I have never asked questions better than I do right now, and I give people much more informative answers when they ask me questions. This year has altered both my perception of myself and the way I perceive my surroundings. But something that has both pushed and allowed me to stay calm in a constantly changing environment has been Cookie Mondays. This tradition, which was started by Fellow Jenn Thoman last year, was something that stood out to me last year when I was volunteering for 12+. I was impressed by Jenn’s dedication, and decided it was something I was ready to commit to. I am so glad I did.
"I have learned that you have to ask for help to get it, and the same is true for extra cookies."
Every Sunday night I soothingly roll out three to four dozen soft dough balls and lay them out on two baking sheets. Every Monday I bring the resulting confections into the PLUS Center for students. That is constant. What changes is the students’ negotiation tactics for getting more than one cookie. I insist that everyone only take one treat to maximize the number of students that get cookies. The ways that students convince me to give them multiple cookies are silly but also impressive. One student used to come in multiple times every Monday claiming it had not been him in the Center earlier who had gotten a cookie, but his identical cousin or brother. Students often bargain with me, asking if they can have another cookie if they come back at the end of the day. I love hearing students fake groan when they pull out two cookies that are stuck together and facetiously say, “Oh no, Miss, I got two cookies, what am I going to do?” To a certain extent I want to encourage their enterprising spirit. A student taught me a phrase this year that has really stuck with me. She told me, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” I have learned that lesson time and time again while advocating for students. You can’t get a fee waiver or deposit deferral unless you call the admissions department and ask for it. I have found that if you are making very specific requests, and can justify why you deserve to be answered, people are often willing to give you what you want, whether it’s answers or extra grant money. It’s a lesson that I will transfer wherever I go after 12+, and a lesson I want students to learn as well. That’s why I let students return at the end of the day and have another cookie if there are any left. I have learned that you have to ask for help to get it, and the same is true for extra cookies. If you want it, you have to ask for it.
Another element of what makes me love Cookie Mondays is the way students react to seeing cookies in the Center. The tradition of Cookie Monday is not a new one. As stated earlier, Jenn Thoman, a previous Fellow, started the tradition last year. I decided to continue the tradition after witnessing first hand how much students look forward to starting the week with a sweet treat. Their reactions have continued to be joyous and celebratory. One of the students I worked with closely came in and did not initially realize there were cookies in the Cookie Cow. When I told him to look inside the cow, he was so excited he did a dance when he opened the cookie jar and saw the treasure inside. I’ve given a student the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies I made because he often bakes for his family and wanted to share the same treats I made for him with his family.
I appreciate the students’ excitement but I don’t understand it. You would think that by June they would expect cookies every Monday. Yet most of them still act like every Monday is the first time there have ever been cookies in the PLUS Center, even though this tradition has been continuing for two years now. It’s these moments that make me so appreciative of this year with 12+. Our students are complex. They are innovative and they know how to negotiate. They like cookies and they will say what they have to to get more of them, but they will also say thank you while they walk away with a cookie in each hand.