Posted by: emilyrfarrell | August 29, 2011

Say Yes to Education – Week 2

Though the program is over and I have made the great journey back to the fabulous institution that is Grove City College, I do plan on finishing this series of posts on the wonderful Say Yes to Education summer camp. In my last post, which you can obviously see right below this one, I wrote about what the program does and the first week of working with the kids. In the second week of camp I encountered many new behaviors, as well as more of the same.

A Lesson from the Students

To be honest, it was really hard for me to adjust to the kids that I had in my classroom. I was lucky to grow up in a nice, middle class area and attend schools that were filled with students from similar background. That was one of the main reasons I decided to work with Say Yes, so I could gain experience in a more diverse environment. And man were they diverse. Syracuse is a town made up of cultures from all around the world. 21% of the students enrolled in Franklin Elementary come from refugee families. I had students from Nepal, Korea, and Kenya and they were not all fluent in English. More than that, the students that did speak English were so different from anyone I would have ever met in my elementary school. These kids had already been through way more than I could have even imagined and they were still smiling. Seriously, for the most part they were happy upbeat kids who had the appearance of not having a problem in the world. But dealing with the bad times, was the biggest lesson learned from this camp.

Dealing with Bad Days

To be honest, this being only the second week of school, I was still on the learning curve of handling the kids with behavior issues. Which most of them had. But this was the week where I perfected my method. At first, I was afraid to be too harsh on them because I didn’t want to push them away or hurt their feelings. After I realized that they were not going to listen to me, I took a stronger approach. It was definitely difficult to find the balance between being too nice and too mean. And to be honest, I probably never found it exactly. But what I realized that week was that it is best just to be careful. The most important thing is to follow through. Because even though my kids were only 6, they knew when they could get away with something. While I know it’s not very innovative advice, it is definitely some of the most important to listen to. Which also means that you should probably abstain from saying things like, “Sit down right now, or I will glue you there.” Mostly because to a six year old, that sounds awesome. But also because if you don’t do it, they assume that all of your orders are jokes. Elementary kids are very literal, which is something that I struggled with, being a fairly sarcastic person.

Field Trips . . . Oh Goodness.

Being a Say Yes counselor provides you with a lot of  great teaching experiences. I had to turn in lesson plans at the beginning of every week, create a budget for all of my supplies, and worst of all, plan a field trip to the zoo. First of all, I taught a world music class. And sure, you can talk about what music goes with each country which goes with each animal, but that’s a lot of  connections for a six year old to make. But we tried. Secondly, even if you manage to connect music and the zoo, there is no guarantee that the kids are going to listen. Because lets face it, the zoo is such an exciting place. I’m 21 and I still get overwhelmed. So now you have 10 kindergartners who already refuse to listen to you in a place where dreams come true attempting to teach them a lesson which, let’s face it, doesn’t really make sense in the first place. Can we say best day ever? Oh, and it was in the middle of a heat wave. But, lesson learned. First, begin preparing for the buddy system at least of a week ahead of time. Treat your elementary school kids like a marching band. If you don’t teach them the drill before the game there is no way it’s going to work. Second, make sure you know where you’re taking the kids. If you have a field trip to a zoo, it is probably a good idea to go there before hand and find everything you want to see. Me not being from the Syracuse area, I learned this the hard way. And finally, if you are doing a worksheet, make sure you do it somewhere the kids can sit and complete it. Without the paper flying away in the wind. Also learned that one the hard way.

It’s the Simple Things.

Let’s face it, nothing in this post is ground breaking. It’s the same lessons you learn in every single education class in college. I thought that I knew all this going into it, but sadly I forgot it all the second I needed it. It’s really hard to be under that much pressure, trying to entertain the kids, impress your boss, not to mention the principal of the school. The most important lesson I learned in week two, and throughout the entire camp, was that I am not ready to just go out and teach. I need practice. I guess that’s why student teaching is so important, huh?


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