Ms. Falvey's 4th graders start every school day the same. After morning announcements, each kid knows homework from the night before goes on their desk. "If the class complains about homework, the entire class gets double," said Colvin Elementary School teacher Brianna Falvey.
Falvey expects a lot from her group of 10-year-olds. "We, in this room, focus on everything that they can do instead of everything that they can't," said Falvey. "Because I think they really are capable of far more than sometimes we give them credit for."
The words underprivileged and low-income get thrown around pretty often about Colvin Elementary. "They're a human being," said Falvey. "So they don't have money ... not a big deal. Does that mean they can't do work? No, it most definitely does not."
Each year, Falvey challenges her class to do their homework every single night. The kids set a goal of how many days they think they can go. This year's class chose 100 days. "When we were really starting to do this I thought people were not going to bring them. But we were believing in them to bring them," said 4th grader Fabian Holguin.
They posted a sign outside the classroom to show their progress. "A teacher said to me, I don't know why you're putting three velcro stickers on there. These kids, there's no way they're going to get to even a double digit number. I was like, okay, that's cool. I can take that," said Falvey.
Students hoped when they switched the number doubt would change with it. "We want to inspire other kids and we want the kids that we inspire to inspire other kids too," said 4th grader Jazmin Gonzales.
So the class set out for 100. They got cards of encouragement from the community and even a pizza party on day 25.
But then one morning in October, the excitement turned to disappointment. "We just did all of that work for nothing," said 4th grader Noe Mondragon.
The kids can earn a homework pass after about a month's worth of good behavior and one student thought his might save their mission. "It was sad because I couldn't donate it because two people forgot it and if I donated it to one person then there would still be one person left without homework," said 4th grader Laiden Vanarsdale.
Falvey says the passes are earned through class points. A piece of candy is six points, but a homework pass costs them 50 points. Throughout the process, Falvey says only a handful of students used homework passes and it was only to take a night off. She says students never used one because they forgot to do their homework.
Most of the students had kind and forgiving words for the kids who came without their homework. "It's okay, you can be sad," said 4th grader Evan Klemser. "We don't hate you or nothing."
The students made it 32 days in a row, beating the previous record of 26 days, but had to start back at zero.
"I think we can still go to 100 days in a row," said Vanarsdale.
That faith never left their minds. Determined to shock the critics, Ms. Falvey's 4th grade class made education a priority. "I have to clean my room, clean the dishes, take care of my baby brother, but first I do my homework," said Gonzales.
That commitment carried them all the way. "I'm so excited," said 4th grader Inona Smith.
"I'm okay with people not thinking that we could do it. It's okay, I don't take it personal. I don't get upset," said Falvey. "They knew that they could prove those people wrong. They knew they could do it and that's really all that mattered."
Falvey told the students if they reached their goal, she would dye her hair orange and wear a prom dress to school. "They deserve it. A deal's a deal."
As much as they enjoyed the reward, Falvey knows the value of this life lesson cannot be matched. "I hope they feel this kind of success again, but if they don't, I'm just really grateful that they get this," said Falvey.
Even after they accomplished more than many ever thought possible, the routine continued. The responsibility stuck. "They're still getting homework tonight," said Falvey. "We don't meet a goal and then just stop. You keep going."
The class received the following donations for their efforts:
- $100 from Franklin Law Offices
- $1,370 from an anonymous lawyer in Washington, D.C.
- Pizza party from Prudential Real Estate
- $100 worth of prizes from Prudential Real Estate
- Pizza and ice cream party from Justin Huff
- 100 day T-shirts from Justin Huff and friends at Tinker Air Force Base in OKC
- $50 from Christi Perkins
- Prom dress from The Dress Gallery
- 60% discounted hair dye cost at Planet Hair
- "Halfmoons" - specialty bakery item from Utica Holland Farms Bakery of Utica, NY