Service Learning Paper
Henry Adams once claimed, “A teacher affects eternity; [she] can never tell where [her] influence stops”. Although Adams’ word choice only pertained to the male teachers, it can only be assumed he believed any teacher could achieve this. In order to be a successful teacher, accomplishing a lifelong affect on a student’s life is a necessity.
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Adams’ quote describes my belief in teaching quite perfectly, and my experiences during service learning provides evidence for his statement. These experiences have only added to reinforcing my decision to choose teaching as my profession.
My service learning took place at two different schools. My very first experience was through Sherman Elementary School. Unfortunately, only having one day there constricted me from gaining the full experience of the school. However, the school’s principal amazed me with his determination for improving their academics and environment. The school seemed fairly new, like most of Toledo Public Schools. His passion was contagious, and his heart was truly in it for these kids. The environment at that school had a very welcoming vibe, and the students were all eager to work with us.
It seemed like all these schools, who were struggling to keep their academic level at an acceptable status, just needed someone to be confident in them. Teaching at a less developed school like this one definitely appeals to me. I sat in a sixth grade classroom momentarily that day, because the principal had taken up most of our time with a tour. The teacher was very sweet, and had good control on students who liked to test her patience. Although I believe that I could have benefited tremendously from that experience, I accepted my move to another school.
I am currently fulfilling my service learning hours at Keyser Elementary. The environment at Sherman Elementary and Keyser differ dramatically. The staff at Keyser was usually very disorganized and seemed unprepared for our visit each week. The Bowling Green students and I would file into their cafeteria, find a spot on one of the folding tables, and wait for students to be sent down to be tutored. The first student I had was a third grader named Marcus. Although on occasion he would be absent, he was my main student for the first part of our time at Keyser.
Marcus is a very quiet boy, but once he warmed up to me I learned all his favorite activities. Each week, Marcus and I read a story. Reading is the only thing I have done with Marcus. His reading skill was below average because of abundant reading issues with inconsistency and vocabulary. Up until a few sessions ago, my second student’s name was Keivon. He is a second grader and has the opposite personality as Marcus. He looked at his trip to the cafeteria as an escape from his classroom. Getting him on task was my first job, and then reading came after that.
We also never strayed from the subject of Reading. It was the same thing every week. Keivon had an excellent reading skill, and always comprehended what he read. However, the past few sessions I have been sitting in a Special Education classroom, to help me decide if I would like to specialize in that area. I was very excited to get the opportunity to work in a classroom. The students and teacher were very welcoming to me, and seemed eager to have a new face in their room. These students were easily distracted and had definite behavioral problems.
The teacher barely got through her sentences without an interruption. I never worked one on one with students until my most recent experience. As a result of my experiences at Keyser Elementary, my expectations did not match the reality of my situation. I expected to be in the classroom throughout my whole service learning. I was expecting to be able to absorb the everyday experience of teachers in their classrooms and learn from them. If I would not had asked to be placed in a Special Education classroom, I never would have experienced the environment of the classroom.
Although I feel as if other sections were more fortunate in their experiences, I still thoroughly benefited from mine. Furthermore, I believe no experience is an unpleasant one, always a great opportunity to learn. In my first experience with Marcus, I helped him review the Reading section of the Ohio Proficiency Tests. He struggled with having a fluent reading pattern, along with confusion on numerous words. I encouraged the technique of breaking up the word and sounding each part out, and then putting the whole thing together.
He seemed to benefit from this technique, and his reading fluency evened out. Reading and Language Arts have always been my strong point in school, so I felt I had the proper knowledge of the content to help Marcus understand the test. Kauchak and Eggen (2009), report that having a detailed understanding of the content one will teach improves the quality of how the teach it and how the student learns (p. 15). In my most recent experience, I helped a few students with dependent and independent clauses. Again, this content is very familiar to me and I have a detailed understanding for the clauses as well.
This also demonstrates Ohio Standards for the Teaching Profession’s (OSTP) second standard, which states being familiar with content is a responsibility for the teacher (Standard 2). Additionally, I felt my overall experience at Keyser gave me a side of teacher collaboration that I did not expect. Whenever the Bowling Green students arrived at Keyser, we seemed like more of a burden than beneficial for the school. There would be times when the administrators would forget we were coming, and it was evident the school had a lot of communication problem.
With Sherman Elementary, I felt the principal and the school all collaborated really well with each other, and they all had positive energy that promoted student learning to the maximum. Additionally, the principal made the effort to reach out to the community and keep everyone involved. Both schools demonstrated how they collaborated and communicated, which aligns with standard six (Standard 6). However, Keyser Elementary failed to meet up to the standard, whereas Sherman Elementary succeeded it. To further expand upon Sherman Elementary School’s excellence, I believe they created a very encouraging environment.
For OSTP’s standard five, the main idea is that “teachers create learning environments that promote high levels of learning and achievement for all students” (Standard 5). In my one-day experience at the school, I felt that the school implemented a very productive learning environment. In past years, the school had been categorized as an “academic emergency” school. However, they have been creating programs like “Parents Power Hour” where they allow the parents to come into the school and learn about their students’ progress in school.
The principal also shares some news about the schools progress and this helps the parents get a feel for what their child is learning. Additionally whenever the principal shouted, “What’s that smell,” the students would shout “Sherman pride! ” The environment and school spirit in that school was contagious. The sixth grade teacher I encountered deeply cared for her students, and in the ten minutes I spent with her I already knew she promoted a successful learning environment. She led her students through a greeting activity where each student was greeted properly and in a mature manner, and then they also shared something they were proud of.
This made the classroom climate very positive, which is an essential key to a productive learning environment (Kauchak and Eggen, 2009, p. 236). The students were all supportive of each other’s proud moments, and I believe that was a good start to a productive learning day. As a result of my experience within an actual classroom being very limited, I lost the opportunity to witness the teacher delivering their instruction. My hope was to learn about how a teacher effectively instructs her students, which fits in OSTP’s standard four (Standard 4). However, I did encounter an effective instruction within the Special Education class.
On my most recent experience, the teacher was reviewing Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World. To limit the lesson to her lecture would not have given the students a full understanding of the journey. Therefore, the teacher brought the globe to the front of class and physically explains the journey by tracing his journey on the globe. Having the lecture along with the demonstration on the globe proved to be much more effective than the lecture alone. As previously stated, all of my experiences have only reinforced my decision to continue on the path of becoming a teacher.
I witnessed a positively charged environment and one that did not have such delight. However, when I am a teacher in the future, I will be positive no matter what type of school I am in, and promote the learning environment my students deserve. I plan on continuing my expansion with the content I intend to teach, therefore my students will gain the ultimate learning experience with me as their teacher. I believe encouraging, teaching, caring, communicating, and believing in my students will benefit them tremendously. As a teacher, it’s all in a days work.