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As I pulled to Carter Day Child Care Center I got the feeling that this school/daycare was on of small size. When I pulled up it took me about five minutes to find a parking spot. There were cars lined up all along the side walk, due to there being a ring making business across the street. There were a couple of houses on both sides of the street, there was also a little run down convenient store on the corner of the street that always seemed to be closed; it didn’t seem to much like a neighborhood to me.
When I entered the school/daycare there was a display of the students artwork hanging on the walls. On a table sat five carts with all the children’s names on them along with a sign in and out sheet. I was introduced to Wendy who is the head teacher. Wendy gave me a tour of all the classrooms form the infant room to the kindergarten classroom. As we went from classroom to classroom I noticed that the numbers were really low. There were eight infants, eight toddlers, nine in the busy bees, nine in the teddy bears, nine in the butterflies, and nine in the kindergarten classrooms. Each classroom had its own energy. It was very calm in the first three classrooms that I went into, but the last three classrooms were very loud and outgoing. In the kindergarten class there were only nine, but when I walked in it seemed like there were nineteen students. I quickly noticed the students who were the loud ones in the classroom; they ran up to me and began to ask question after question.
During my first visit I just took the time to sit, look, and listen so that I could get a feeling for the classroom. On my second visit the teacher let me decide what I wanted to do. She offered me to work one on one or with the whole group. I decided to work one week with the whole group and the opposite week one on one so that each student could get some personal time with me.
When I worked with the students as a group they taught me that it is very important to take the time and ask questions about themselves, families and their cultures. I realized it was important to do this, because Hispanic peoples celebrate birthdays differently from the Afro American people. One Hispanic student told me that it is a party for them and their parents, on the other hand one Afro American student told me that it is a party for them to invite their friends, get gifts and eat cake. This little example made me take a step back and realize that something as small as a birthday party may be celebrated differently across cultures.
When I worked with the students on an individual bases, I learned very quickly that these students learned best in different ways. I had one student that was learning through visuals, and by repeating things to her more than three times. This student had a problem understanding due to her primary language being Spanish and that being the only language spoken at home. When I worked with this student I used very colorful flash cards to help her learn the alphabet and her colors.
There was another student in the classroom that learned just by direction. When he was told to color the sock green he would do just that. It was an advantage to have this student in the classroom, because there were students that needed help in identifying objects and he was a big help. This student actually enjoyed helping the other students, though at times he was called the teachers pet.
The students in this class also learned through sensory. There was an area for the rice table, and the water table. The classroom was also center based learning with a math table, book area, dramatic area, block area, art center, and puzzle area. All the centers had advantages and disadvantages. The advantages were that all the students got the chance to play and work in groups. The students were also able to learn how to work together, and learn how to work out their own problems. The disadvantages were that some of the students always wanted to go to the same area day after day not giving themselves a chance to experience something different. The students always got into disagreements about the dramatic area. This was the area that caused the most problems. Every time the teacher would open the area the same three girls would go into the dramatic area and would always end up argue which would make the teacher close it so that nine of the other students would be able to get a chance that day.
When thinking about teaching a classroom of diverse students I would have to be prepared to expect there to be different learning styles in the classroom. I would also need to continue to volunteer in the diverse communities, so that I may get the sense of how the children learn, and how they get motivated. In some ways it may be easy to say that there is no way in being prepared, because all students are different and as a teacher you need to be trained well enough to adapt do the different students that will enter your class ever year.
There are different things that I have learned about social, cultural, and economic conditions that impact students learning. I have learned that students need to feel like they are in a safe and clean environment in order to learn properly. I have also learned that when learning it is important for a child to be social with other students. By being social a student can expand their self-esteem, attitude and group work won’t be a chore for them. In doing my service learning I have learned that due to culture students learn differently. I have learned that in the Hispanic culture the students learn their vowels before they learn the alphabet. There was also a student in the classroom that did not salute the flag or say grace due to his parent’s religion. One morning before breakfast I was asking him to fold his hands so that we may bless the food he just put his head down and would not say anything. He was to embarrassed so all the students began to yell out “he can’t say grace, his mom doesn’t let him”. After the other students began to yell out he said, “I can’t say it I don’t believe in God”. I have heard about these things before, but never thought I would come in contact with it. I felt so stupid, because learning about it and then being blind about it made me feel silly. I also learned that the economic condition play a big part in the classroom, because there were children in the classroom that would tease the other children about their cloths and shoes. When children are showing these types of behaviors it does have an effect on a student's learning, because instead of coming to school to learn the student is worrying about what the next student is going to say about their cloths.
Learning about yourself
The personal qualities that I possess are that I can relate to the children being that I grew up in a diverse, low-income family/community. Also the students knew that they could have fun with me, but when I met business I met business. The students all had respect for me because I respected them. Which I believe is very important in a classroom. They loved when I came each day. A personal quality that I have is being on time and ready to do the job. The students knew that I would be there at 8 a.m. and that I would leave at 10 a.m. everyday. I was only supposed to visit for fifteen visits, but I visited for two months straight for two hours per visit. I was dedicated and loved it.
I can say that there was nothing that I had to unlearn. I went into the classroom with an open mind expecting to get through to at least one of the nine students. The impact that I had on the students was of one that I did not expect. One of the students that I worked with went from not knowing how to write his name to writing it perfectly. It took a lot of time and practice. Working with this student taught me what patients really met. While working with the students on a day to day basis I got to learn about each of their personalities, and also learn some of their likes and dislikes in learning. I have learned that I could have an impact on a child without even knowing it. When it was my last day in my service learning some of the students cried while other grabbed hold of me and did not want me to go. As a group they made me a card and a giant poster with all their handprints on it. Not only I had an impact on the students, but also at the same time they had a huge impact on me.
Connections of the course
When reading the Banks book I learned about religion and how students may have different religious beliefs, and how to deal with them. Also the Banks book talked about gender issues in education. When I went into the classroom I tried to observe and see if the books findings were consistent with the children as far as maths. I did find that the boys in the class did better with maths and that the girls did better with writing. The reading about the Indian boy helped me to pay attention to the students who may have been quite, but at the same time not to continuously pick on that student, but to help that student in their learning by working one on one to see what they know and what they may need help in.
Finally, I would like to say that this service learning experience has been a great one for me. It has helped me make up my mind about going into teaching. The students in my classroom were all loving and outgoing at times; I had to remember that they were supposed to be like that at that age. The teacher that I worked with who was Bethany Lawson was wonderful, she help me get that full experience. This service learning was the best part of the class, because I got the chance to take what I had learned about diversity and put it to work.
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