Thursday, January 7, 2010

Elementary Experiences - On the Road to College

Today our group began the day by splitting up into separate groups and traveling to two different elementary schools. Both groups were able to be a part of a classroom that was lead by Teach for America participants. The group I was in traveled to Montclaire Elementary to experience the very exciting and positive learning environment of a Kindergarten classroom. The other group traveled to Albemarle Road Elementary to discover what a 4th grade learning curriculum involves. Both groups had extremely positive experiences all throughout the day and observed the hard work that must be put forth by those in Teach for America in order to successfully teach their students.

While in the kindergarten classroom, our group was able to get to know the 5 and 6 year old students very quickly. Even at 7:30 in the morning they are highly energetic and they were all so excited to have the three of us in their classroom. At the beginning of the morning we worked with small groups of the students during their reading workshop and we all saw the impressive level of reading that the young students had already reached, and it is only the middle of the school year. We were then able to create gingerbread houses with the students which was a wonderfully entertaining experience. The creativity used by the students to create their houses was excellent. It was great to see how eager they all were to learn. Throughout the day we continued to interact with the students during their writing and math workshops. The goal of Teach for America participants is to better education and make a difference in their students' lives. Ms. Buchanan did just that. She had created such a great learning environment for her kindergarten students that it was easy to see that even at the ages of 5 and 6, her students were on the path to becoming collegiate students. Each table of students had the name of a different college throughout the U.S. and the hard work the students willingly put forth showed great promise of college in their future. The entire day gave us all a great dose of what it takes to educate these young minds. I believe that we can all agree on the fact that we took our teachers in elementary-high school for granted and did not realize how much time and dedication our great teachers put forth in order to educate us.

By volunteering at each level (high school, middle school, and now an elementary school) thus far, our group has gained a lot of insight on the effort given everyday by those in Teach for America and we are witnesses of how successful the program is. These past three days have been interesting in that we were all put in situations that were unfamiliar to most of us previously but that we have all immensely enjoyed and learned from. One of the most valuable lessons learned is that as adults, we learn from children every single day and they are able to use their imaginations and positive attitudes to give us new perspectives on certain situations. These students are encouraged to shoot for their highest goals and taught that college is a place of great opportunity, beginning at the age of 5. We have all been able to see this week that the future collegiates will enter the world that we are in now due to the knowledge and encouragement gained from their earliest school days. This gives us confirmation that the future will be bright.

After the school day was over, Ms. Miller generously took us to the Teach for America office where all of the TFA participants in the Charlotte region report to. It was great to meet even more TFA teachers and a few of the coordinators and directors. After we returned from volunteering, we all participated in our daily lounge sessions and headed out to dinner around 7:30. We traveled about 20 minutes North of Charlotte and enjoyed a wonderful meal at Carrabba's Italian Grill. Dinner was complete with a highly intense discussion about our childhood entertainment and we all took a great stroll down memory lane. Movies were quoted, games were described, and many MANY laughs were had. Tomorrow we head to another elementary school at 5:45 AM and will be heading home after school ends at 1:30 PM to greet the blizzard that is occurring in Indiana.

Maria Miller
Junior, Elementary Education Major

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