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"Learning in the Classroom" Peace Corps Application (Cross cultural)


PeaceEarth 2 / 3  
Jun 17, 2010   #1

Job at K-8 School



The day I really felt that I had become a teacher, was when I started working at Blodgett K-8 School. Even though I was still only a practicum student working my way towards a degree and certification, the experiences I had in my 2nd grade classroom are lessons that I will always remember. The school is located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the City of Syracuse. My class was just as diverse as the rest of the school, consisting mostly of African-American, Latino-American, bi-racial, and even 2 refugee students from Somalia. Every one of these students had a different story to tell, some happy, some sad, and some that words couldn't even describe.

When I initially joined the class I was so sure of myself that I would be able to connect with my students. However, I would soon realize just how different the worlds we grew up in were. I still remember one student J.L. who was one of the cleverer, but mature students in the class. She was also one of the most disruptive, sometimes even destructive, especially when attention was not given directly to her. I couldn't understand why she required so much of this attention until my mentor teacher had told me that she was the victim of one of the worst cases of child abuse the state had ever seen.

Another student, C.S. told me she was living with foster parents after her mother was arrested for an incident related to cocaine. Here was a 2nd grader, as adorable and innocent as any other, and already she was exposed to drugs and knew what they were. Only a few of my students had such profound experience in their childhoods, but many would have sensed familiarity in their own lives.

And here I was, a college student going to a private institution, born and raised in a pre-dominantly white suburban neighborhood thinking I could possibly relate to them. I even recall on my first lesson that required my students to create masks for homework, my mentor teacher had to explain to me that my students didn't have resources such as colored pencils at home! I couldn't even believe that I had made such a mistake. To make things worse, my teacher then pointed out that the directions I planned to have them take home was not at a 2nd grade level. I remember trying to explain that their parents could help them out, only to be lectured again about how some of my students were at a higher reading level than their parents! Not only that but I didn't even consider that many of their parents may not be available to help them. I realized at this point that I was oblivious to my own privileges all this time, and never truly looked through the lens of an entirely different culture.

The amazing part is that my students, still learning what the word culture even means, were most likely more aware of the differences than I was. There were instances where it seemed like they tried to test me, asking me where I lived, if I went to college, and even what type of car I had. I am not sure if they were looking to see if I would lie or exaggerate my answers. Nevertheless I was always honest with them, which in turn they were very appreciative of. They were most accepting with the fact that I wasn't trying to pretend that I was something that I was not.

While even though I struggled early on to meet with the diversity of the class, I was proud of myself because of how I was able to adapt to my situation and towards my students. I kept my ears open and allowed my pupils to teach me as much as I taught them. For example C.S. had told me how her mother who she loved very much was from Arizona. Not long after that, I read a book to the class during read aloud called Coyote: A Trickster's Tale from the Pacific Southwest by Gerald McDermott. After a small lesson on the directions of the compass, C.S. immediately realized that was where her mother was from. I still remember how she took the book afterwards and read it over for weeks with enjoyment. Moments like those transcended the cultural barriers that were between my students and I and really reminded me why I wanted to become a teacher.

What I learned most of all from this experiences was that even though we all came from different backgrounds, I was still able to build a connection with my students. As long as I acknowledge those differences and was accepting of their cultures it creates a level of understanding for both sides. All I have to do is listen and learn from my students just like they are learning from me. That is what a true partnership is and it is a lesson I would take with me not just for the Peace Corps, but for my life.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Jun 19, 2010   #2
The day I really felt that I had become a teacher was when on the day I started working at Blodgett K-8 School. --- just an idea...

...one of these students had a different story to tell, some happy, some sad, and some that words couldn't even describe.--- excellent, I love it!

This does not make sense...
I still remember one student J.L. who was one of the cleverer, but mature I remember one particular student who was ___________ (complete this sentence in a way that is simple and clear) . She was also one of the most ... was the victim of one of the worst cases of child abuse the state had ever seen. (add one more sentence to tel what you learned from this. Then, end the paragraph.)

What I learned most of all from t My most powerful lesson from this experiences was that even though...

:-)


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