As I’ve mentioned before, my post-graduate plans have changed a few times as my interests shifted: from politics and law, to writing and journalism, to film and documentaries, to education and service. I am so excited to tell you that I have been accepted into AmeriCorps and will be working with Notre Dame Mission Volunteers this coming fall. NDMV works to empower and build communities and individuals in impoverished areas through education. I will be working in Baltimore, Maryland, teaching and tutoring students of many different age groups.
My time volunteering at One experience during my time with the We Can Tutoring Program specifically impacted my interest in educating youth. There was a 2nd grade male student who I, and my co-volunteers, had a hard time managing in the classroom setting. One day, while the group was working on an arts and crafts project, he had a meltdown when his brother received praise on his project by another volunteer. I took him into the hall to let him calm down. I told him it was okay to cry, and okay to feel angry – he was unresponsive. While he was crying with his head against the wall I pulled out a box of blocks and dumped them out on the floor. It made a loud noise of course, and it caught his attention. I handed him another box and he did the same. I watched him build towers, and archways, and buildings for 20 minutes on the floor in the hall way. He was the most focused and calm I had ever seen him. So, I got the idea to incorporate this into his math lessons. We found our own space away from the other kids and I would give him a certain number of blocks to build whatever he wanted. Then I would tell him to subtract a number from that, tell me how many were left, and build something new. I witnessed a breakthrough with this student, and learned so much from him and about him within just 45 minutes of one-on-one attention.
I realized that in all of those days spent trying to keep him in his seat, with his worksheets in the classroom, we had failed him. He is no less smart or motivated than the other students, he just learns and succeeds in a different way. It suddenly made sense to me why his teachers had never been able to break through to him. He was held back in school twice already and it makes sense. A teacher in a classroom of 20+ students would never get the opportunity that I did to sit down with him one-on-one and figure out what works for him. This event sparked my interest in organizations like NDMV that provide personal tutors outside of the classroom setting. It also has lead me to set a Master’s Degree in Education as a long-term goal. I learned first-hand the power of education when it best suits the individual student.