One- Describe Your Experience:
My service placement for the semester is a Roxboro Middle School, which is only 10-15 minutes away from campus. Myself along with five other John Carroll students go every Thursday to work with a group of students ranging in age from sixth to eighth grade. They are part of a federally funded after-school program called “Connect” where they get assistance with homework and studying and also do fun things, like field trips and playing games together.
Our responsibility as John Carroll tutors is to help the students with homework and studying, while being an older mentor that the students can look up to and receive support and encouragement from. Their program supervisor, Ms. Kennedy, told us that she wants us working with the same student every week so that we can build more of a connection with one another and get a better understanding of their academic strengths and weaknesses.
I am doing this service placement because I think it will help me grow as a person and give me great experience in terms of my major and future career path. I am going into middle childhood education with concentrations in social studies and English and the kids we tutor at Roxboro are all in middle school. This is a really good way for me to know how to connect with kids that age and learn strategies for how to best help them both academically and personally. I always share with the kids my own experiences from middle school and high school to help personalize what they are going through and validate their feelings and concerns. I also always share my value about the importance of education and taking school seriously because I want them to feel motivated and passionate about school.
Two- The People:
We work with students in the Connect program at Roxboro Middle School. They are primarily sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. We work with these students to serve as tutors and mentors for them to have a connection with. We tutor them because many of them struggle academically and need someone to give them an extra push for motivation. I also tutored at Roxboro last semester virtually and their supervisor told us tutors privately that the pandemic really affected a lot of the students emotionally and academically to the point where a lot of the students had tons of missing assignments and were even failing some of their classes. She said that a lot of them just need someone to sit with them and motivate them to get their work done and be more organized students. My student has been doing great each week. When I am working with her on assignments, she does a great job staying motivated and I can tell that she genuinely wants to do well. She asks me insightful questions when she is confused that tell me that she truly wants to learn. When I told their supervisor how well my student has been doing, she told me, “She is the kind of student that just needs someone to sit with her, push her to do well, and give her praise.” I am really glad that I can be that person for her.
The program supervisor, Ms. Kennedy, has shared with we the John Carroll tutors a bit about her background and how she ended up at Roxboro, since she is not a teacher there, but runs the Connect program. She told us that she has had many different kinds of jobs and lived in different places, but is so thankful to have found her place at Roxboro working with these students. Her positive influence and impact on the students is very clear to me. The students trust her and she has an amazing personal connection with each of them. The love and support that she gives each and every one of them is beautiful to witness. I think that it’s very beneficial for these kids to have a trusted adult in their life outside of their families because it is another person for them to turn to and trust. The students have shared with us things about them that help us get to know them better, like things about their families, friends, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and likes and dislikes in school. They have also opened up to us about typical things that middle schoolers feel and go through and I have my own similar experiences from middle school to help relate to them and validate their feelings and experiences.
Three- Yourself and Your World:
Whenever I go to service, I always feel like I am where I am supposed to be in terms of my major. I know that I am in the right place and am meant to be a teacher. When I am helping my student and can see that she is understanding something, it makes me feel accomplished and like I am making a difference. It makes me excited to see where my future will take me and for all the young students’ lives I will be able to make a difference in in the coming years. Service learning helps make this possible because I am getting a taste of what I will be doing with my own future students. I am forming a better idea of what I want to do in my own classroom in terms of my pedagogy and approach to teaching. I also appreciate that I am getting the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds that have experienced life from a different perspective than my own. I grew up going to a Catholic grade school and high school and always enjoyed school and did well in it. It gives me more empathy and perspective to learn about those with different experiences and I feel that it makes me a better person. It also helps prepare me for my future career because I will have students who come from all different walks of life and my job will be to help and support each and every one of them.