I decided to volunteer with Tutor Outreach to Provo Schools (TOPS) during winter semester. I worked for one hour on Mondays and Wednesdays with Miss B in Wasatch Elementary School’s sixth grade music class. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I began to serve, but by the end I was so happy that I chose to participate in TOPS. Through this volunteer experience, I have definitely learned a lot about classroom management, the frustrating moments and happy moments of being a teacher, incorporating technology in the classroom, discipline, and the importance of being consistent.
TOPS was such an incredible experience. On the first day, Miss B. simply introduced me to the class and then throughout the semester she had me help out the students and keep them on task as they worked on their class projects. Today, the last day, they worked on research projects about different composers. Their assignment was to choose a composer, come up with 10 “interview questions,” find the answers to those questions on the internet, and choose one of their composer’s songs to play for the class in a presentation. I went around to each group and made sure that they stayed on task and found the information they needed. The students did not even have to leave their classroom to use computers; they had brought laptops to the classroom. They loved having the freedom to do research on the laptops and use Google- it was kind of a big deal. They used headphones and got to listen to their composer’s music, which they loved.
By the last day of TOPS I had learned every student’s name and had gained a whole class of new friends. When the students found out that it was my last day, they were so disappointed! It was then that I felt like I actually made a difference. As I reflect on the past few months, I realize the improvement that took place in my relationship with the students. The students started to call me by my name, Miss Kristie, and they liked when I interacted with them. They would give me high fives as they left the classroom. They trusted me like their own teacher to answer their questions. After each day in class, I would talk to Miss B. about how the day went, what she wish went better, and how she is planning on improving next time. It was neat to see how she wanted to improve and that she shared those goals with me so that I could help her make them happen.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in TOPS. I loved being able to be in a classroom and it made me so much more excited to be a teacher and have a classroom of my own! I am definitely planning on volunteering with this program next Fall and I would encourage each of you to volunteer as well.
Have you volunteered with TOPS or with other similar service organizations? Have you had any neat experiences? Please share!
I hope that everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I know that some of us may not have been able to be with our mothers and some women may not be mothers yet, but that’s okay!
This mother’s day I had the opportunity to be with my mom and both of my grandmas. This is a picture of me, my mom, and my sisters.
I was thinking about mothers on Sunday. Mothers have a lot of different roles: nurturer, chauffeur, cook, but ultimately, teacher. I know that my mom has taught me so much. I certainly know that my first year of college wouldn’t have been the same without all of the things that I have learned from my mother. Some of us may have even learned some excellent techniques from our mothers that we can use in our future classroom.
One thing that I know my mom does is that she always focuses on the positive. If one of us kids wasn’t succeeding at something, she would point out what we did well. Instead of focusing on the bad, she always brought out the good. This is important in a classroom because sometimes children can get discouraged easily. As you point out the good, they have something to be proud of. The second thing that my mom always does is remind us how much she loves us. In a classroom, we need to let our students know how much they they matter and how much we care about them. As students realize how much we care about them we create better relationships with them and they might even strive to better in school because of that.
I want to challenge you to think about your mother and all that she has done to teach you. Was there a technique that she used in raising you that you could implement in your future classroom?
I recently saw a fascinating video of Sir Ken Robinson, in which he says, “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” While I’m sure this isn’t always the case, his point is that kids, who are naturally imaginative, exploratory, and creative, often gradually lose these qualities through education. In schools we generally search for the glorious right answers and look down upon the wrong ones, eventually painting “wrong” as an ugly, slimy monster to stay away from. But as Robinson says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Our world increasingly needs adaptive, creative, dynamic thinkers, not someone who merely spits out an answer. And we know this. We want good thinkers. Yet it seems like many times we put a lot of stress on getting things right and getting there the right way. That’s what is rewarded and idealized through most assignments, practices, and tests. While this type of teaching has its place, I think it is vital for us as educators to help students not be scared of getting something wrong but instead help them embrace creativity, which will help them become better learners and thinkers.
To achieve this, it is important to accept each student’s unique way of learning and discovering. Howard Gardner’s famous theory of multiple intelligences explains that people learn in different ways, including visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical. For education and creativity, this is very important. It means that we as teachers need to adapt to and encourage learners of all types. It means that we need to let kids be creative and figure things out in the way that makes sense to them. It means that we shouldn’t favor a certain type of intelligence but instead embrace all of them. We could apply this by changing a lesson plan so a student can understand better, encouraging a child’s unique interests, or avoiding picking favorites among the students. Through all this we can remember this wise advice, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” As we embrace all types of learners, students can keep enough confidence in their own creativity to contribute something unique to the world.
What are your thoughts about encouraging creativity and working with different types of learners? Especially you who are farther along in your majors or have more experience working with students?
I spent last week in Disney World with my family. While we were there, I walked by this construction sign:
I love this quote because it totally applies to teachers working together in a school to plan and carry out different projects. In elementary school, the teachers of each specific grade would call themselves a team. They would coordinate lessons and plan activities together for our whole grade of four classes. They really worked as a team to make opportunities for us, as students. As I continued to ponder this quote, I thought that even the things that are accomplished with the teacher and the students in a class could be considered teamwork. It’s an exciting thing that is definitely a “tribute to [their] combined effort.”
I was watching my high school-aged brother play basketball last night and it was so fun to see him and his teammates work together and succeed on the court. They worked so well together. I can’t wait to see that magic working in the classroom, as well. This magic isn’t only something that can happen at Disney World–we can see it in our very own classrooms! For example, in fourth grade, my teacher had a star theme in our classroom. Our desks were arranged into five different groups and we had to work as a team, within our table, to earn stars that would be displayed on these 5 large stars (one for each team) that hung from the ceiling. It was an incentive to encourage your classmates to follow directions and to do kind things for others. This is just one simple way to encourage teamwork in the classroom.
Have you ever had an experience where people came together to accomplish something small or large? How did you feel when you were finished? Do you have any ideas of ways that you could incorporate this aspect of teamwork in a unique way in your future classroom?