This past semester I volunteered through a nearby school district to take part in a Reading Camp for elementary age students. Twice a week for nine weeks I would go to an elementary school and read with a second grade student. Depending on the student's reading level, they were divided into groups, something all of the students were very aware of. As the volunteer we would read a book to them, ask some comprehension questions, and then they would read to us. Afterwards if there was time, we would play a "reading game." The second grader I worked with really had a knack for these games and I would often lose.
It was really amazing that the children involved in the Reading Camp were from all different types of backgrounds, different interests, and a variety of personalities. Every child was there because their teacher felt that they needed more time to work "one on one" with reading. Although I only worked with one child, she was much different that other children I've worked with. She opened up to me by the second week, and shared with me some of her deepest fears and became incredibly vulnerable with me. She made me realize that children are small adults, and they need to be treated that way. Their honesty and courageousness deserve respect from everyone. She also just wanted to sit and talk a couple days, which I found very interesting. She acknowledged that "sometimes you just need to talk and get your thoughts out to someone else." It took me until my teens to figure that one out.. She is a student that learns through experience and notices feelings. After I noticed this, we spent more time on comprehension questions and what the characters in the book might be feeling. Her attention level increased dramatically, especially when she was asked to connect those feelings and experiences to her life.
On the other hand, there were other students in the classroom who learned differently. There were a few boys who always wanted to move around and read together. When their volunteers realized this, they formed a partnership of some kind. The boys were intrapersonal learners so they learned best working together.
It's also important to remember that every student comes from a different family. Some of us have many siblings while others may be an only child. These sorts of things may not seem important, but they really shape how the student learns. The girl I worked with came from a family of many children and admitted to me by the second day that sometimes she just wants attention. By fulfilling this for her and giving her someone to listen to her, she was more comfortable and "ready" to learn.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Reading Camp I took part in. At first I thought it would be a difficulty trying to get to the school twice a week on top of other courses I was taking. But by the second week, I enjoyed visiting that spunky second grade girl and knowing that I was helping her education. This experience has got me even more excited, but realistic, about becoming an educator.
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Snippets from my teaching experiences at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.