Service Learning Testimonies
In Spring 2011, the Community Service Office has piloted a new electronic reporting module. A part of it is the question: "Tell one specific story (2-3 paragraphs) about your professional and personal growth resulting from one of your volunteer experiences." The stories appear below unedited.
- At this school I got to work with a group of second graders on reading skills. This was my first real experiance in a classroom actually working with students. I remember going in not really knowing what I was getting into. Also this was a really diverse environment from what I was used to. I worked with a group of four, although it changed a little bit throughout the time. My group was the higher reading level group. As a kid I really loved to read and going in I did not know there dispositions towards reading were. One child in particular tended to act out in class. I sometimes wondered if he was ADHD. He always did his work but would fool around and distract others. Working with him though I discovered a different story. He was actually a very strong reader. He really liked reading one on one and being challenged. The reality was that this child was reading on a fourth grade level. Many times in class he is not fooling around because he is adhd, or just not motivated. He was just bored. This made me think abouit how important it is to reach all kids. A lot goes into trying to help the lower level kids, but the higher level kids can get left out. They need to be challenged too. This entire learning experiance was a big part of my professional and personal growth.
- As a volunteer camp counselor at the St. Mary Academy Bay View summer camp in June of 2010 I had a number of experiences that enhanced my learning as an upcoming teacher. One specific story occurred on a date when the children in my group, ages ranging from 9-11 years, were involved in one of the "field game" activities. It was a relay race in which the students had to work together squeezing balls filled with water into a bucket-the first team to fill their bucket would win. As a counselor, it was my responsibility to evenly split up the teams and consider the diversity of the children within my group. I had one child with a physical muscular disability which hindered her ability to run. In order to accomodate her I placed her with students that would help her both physically and with her morale. In addition, I made sure the teams created a sense of community with one another in order to create a fun, safe, and respectful environment for all children involved, whether their team were the "winning" team or not. This experience allowed me to grow in a number of ways. As a teacher it is critical to have the ability to differentiate activities for the various levels of development throughout the group as well as creating a safe and respectful environment. Although this was not academic learning, the students learned to work together; I learned to modify the race for certain students and strengthened my ability to be flexible. The students had a great time playing the game and all members of the group wanted to play the game again. I continued to modify the game, changing the levels of difficulty and creating more challenges for a team that seemed to have a higher skill level than the other team. This experience helped me grow both as an individual to respect diversity and as a professional. I learned the importance of differentiation and how to overcome obstacles I may face when dealing with students of varying developmental levels.
- George J. West Elementary School in Providence was my first experience within a classroom. I was assigned this placement through the VIPS program while I was enrolled in FNED346 and went to Mrs. Elizabeth Callaghan's first grade class six times for two and a half hours each visit. I recall walking into the school on the first day feeling very anxious and apprehensive. I was not sure of what I would be expected to do or how many students I would be working with during my visits. My responsibilites consisted mostly of helping students with predominantly mathematics worksheets and occassionally reading worksheets. I was not assigned to any group of students in particular, but was asked to circle the room and help where help was needed. This volunteer experience helped me grow both professionally and personally in several ways. First, it reinforced in myself that I truly wanted to be a teacher and I loved being around kids and helping them become lifelone learners, even though I only did this in a small way during those visits. Next, I feel that I learned so much from that initial visit within a school being a teacher rather than a student. I was able to see how classroom management was utilized in other settings than in those that I had been a student in. I also was able to encounter what my strengths and weaknesses were when interacting with students. I felt that, after several visits at George J. West, I could see many places where I needed to improve before entering into my practicum experience and, even further, into my future career. This experience was the first to start not only my college career in the FSEHD, but also in the big picture of becoming a great teacher. Although I was apprehensive going into this volunteer experience, I got a lot out of it and learned so much from it.
- During my volunteer experience with the Providence Schools English Language Learner Enrichment Program I would work in a classroom with 8-12 ELL students. As the teacher conducted the lessons I would help students who struggled with the language. When the lesson was over I would work with a small group of students on a specific skill the needed more help with like syllables, rhyming, or identification of letters and sounds. We would work on these skills using provided activities by the program. I grew a lot from this experience because it taught me how to approach students who I have a language barrier with. Many of the students struggled to speak English with me and would try talking to me in their language which I did not understand. Some students were of Spanish decent while others were of African decent. I learned that I have to sometimes draw pictures or point to things when I am talking to these students to help them understand. I also learned that it takes a lot of time and patience to help ELL learn English. I am so use to the English language which I learned I cannot take for granted when working with ELL students. To them it is new and frightening, so you have to take it at a slow pace and take it one step at at time. Learning a new language cannot be rushed.
- During my Fall 2008 semester I did my placement at Carl Lauro in Providence, RI. It was my first experience working in a classroom and I was excited to work with the students as I assisted the classroom teacher in her daily activities. When I began Ms. Dias told me that she wanted me to work with a specific group of students who required extra help. My first attempt at helping them in reading was a disappointment. I had underestimated the amount of help my students needed and therefore my first mini-lesson with them was not a success. However, I did not run away and change my major instead I realized that this was an important step. I had tried something and failed because I did not have the proper information about my students prior knowledge. Therefore what I did instead was look back on what I had done with them, and I examined what had worked and what did not work and why. The next week I was prepared and felt as though I did a great job in helping the students. One of the things that I feel this placement really helped me to understand is that sometimes things do not go as planned and it is okay. I learned how to be a more calm person and take the good with the bad and work around the obstacles. Working in a classroom is unpredictable, therefore I learned how to be well prepared but at the same time I knew it was okay to do something that wasn't written down somewhere.
- This was my first experience working with students at the elementary grade levels. All my prior experience had been in early education where I first started my undergraduate degree. Going into the volunteer experience I was extremely nervous. i was not sure how the students would be or if my teaching would be effective. I had also never been in what I would consider to be a inner city school, or a racially diverse school. I had grown up and gone to school in a very suburban white town in New Hampshire. This was going to be completely out of my comfort zone. My first day jitters were not needed. I walked into the school and felt at ease. The supervisor that I had was great to work with and provided everything that I would need. The training that we had for VIPS prior to my first visit was also beneficial. I worked with three students in a third grade classroom on their reading. My confidence level grew each time I worked with them, as did my skills and theirs. Each week I saw them grow and learn more sight words than they had the week before. At the end of my hours I did not want to leave. I wanted to continue working with them, but was unable to because of the demands on my schedule near the end of the semester.
- Working in the after school academy at ASFMS was a great experience that helped me experience the importance of using hands-on materials in math. This program was called Hands-On ALgebra and I assisted a sixth grade teacher in a class of 12 students from sixth, seventh and eigth grade. I was impressed with how Mrs. Saran used an iquiry approach and allowed the students to explore and come up with rules and concepts on their own. At the end of the first class, one student said, "oh, now I get it", which I thought was amazing after just one class. This school offers a wide variety of afterschool programs for six weeks, twice a year. I learned that the first ninety minutes is an academic class, like the one I assisted in, and then student go back to the cafeteria for a snack (provided) and then go to a fun enrichment class of their choice. I also helped out in one of these called "Window's Movie Maker". This class showed me how engaging the use of technology is with students. I consider myself to be able to use technology adequately, but this class showed me the importance of moving beyond that. I enjoy technology, so I think continuing to improve my knowledge in that area will be a pleasure. If time allowed, I would be happy to volunteer my time in this program again to experience some of the other great academic and enrichment courses offered. The teachers and students were great to work with and made me feel welcomed and useful.
- At John F. Horgan Elementary School I learned a lot about myself. I am never around young children and being the youngest in my family I have never been exposed to children all that often growing up. I learned that I do have a lot of patience and I like working with young students. I have always wanted to teach high school art and now after this experience I can see myself teaching younger students as well. I like how the young students get very excited about learning new things and about art in general. I wanted to teach a lesson to the class on Japanese scroll prints and I was allowed to do so. They would be making their own scrolls with watercolors and colored pencils. Teaching the lesson was fun and fulfilling to me because the students got visibly excited about learning about something different. When I showed them the examples of artwork they were amazed. I asked them for their in opinions on why they liked it and they were so eager to answer and share why with me and the class. The lesson was a hit with the students and the final products were amazing. When I first was told I was to go to an elementary school I was extremely nervous and I did not know what to expect. I had no interest in the elementary level and totally wrote it off. Now I will say that my experience at John F. Horgan was such a positive one I have a more open mind to teach students in the elementary level.
- The class that I was in was a mix between english speaking students and spanish speaking students. When I went to their class room they were working on writing assignments. I was able to offer the students a lot of help, which also helped me in my personal and professional growth in my journey to becoming a teacher. The first part of their project was to write a story, so I helped the students with adding details that helped with the senses to make their stories more interesting to the reader. I also helped them in correcting their work and fixing their grammar. the next part of their project was to publish their work, which they really enjoyed. I got to help them learn how to use Word when typing up their stories. This was important to me because many of the students did not have computers at home, and the classroom was the only place they were able to get practice. My time with them was a very educational experience that I enjoyed a great deal.
- I was extremely excited when I had the opportunity to volunteer at Charlotte Woods/Cornel Young Elementary School. This was my first experience in any school while enrolled at Rhode Island College, and it is where I truly made up my mind that I wanted to be an educator. I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher but I was nervous to actually enter a classroom. After I arrived in the class, the students embraced me as another teacher and I knew this is the right career choice for me. At that time I thought that I would not enjoy working in an elementary school, as my major was secondary education/biology. However, after my volunteering experience was complete I knew that I wanted to work with the younger children. They are so impressionable at this age and they looked up to me in more ways than one. One student expressed that he wanted to be a teacher like me when he grows up. This student made me feel accomplished with an overall sense of pride and excitement. I feel confident that I can change the lives of children for the better as s future educator!
- During the second time that I did community service for this school I worked in a first grade classroom. This was new to me because I have never had the opportunity to work in a first grade classroom at Rhode Island College. I had the opportunity to work with the students one on one in the hallway concentrating on reading comprehension skills. I would have the students read me 3 books and after each book we would talk about what they remembered from the book. This showed my growth as a future educator because now that I have had practicum classes that focus on reading comprehension I was really able to help the students figure out where they were struggling and give them suggesting about how to fix it. When I was at this school from the first time back in 2008 when I started the program till now in 2011 I have seen a huge amount of growth in my confidence with the students and being able to help them when they have questions. I am glad I was able to go to this school when I first started and return to it again years later to finish my community service so that now only myself but the classroom teacher could see how much I have improved. She was very impressed with my skills around the students and the different ways I have learned to approach and help students when I am tutoring them.