Sunday, December 20, 2009
by Leslie Barron
Never Too Old for Recess
With only one week left of volunteering it makes me think about how my relationship with the students has changed over the course of the semester. The first couple times I worked in the classroom I was nervous because I had difficulty understanding the teacher and the students. I was not used to how fast they talked and was constantly trying to focus on making sure I knew what was going on and what the teacher wanted me to do. The students sit on the rug in the class every morning to begin their lesson and I just remember how lost I was after the first day when they were all talking so fast it was hard for me to understand what they were saying. When interacting with the students, we just worked on the task at hand, usually reading or writing. Usually I would have to ask them to slow down or repeat what they had said. I caught on to some of their conversations with each other but did not get involved. I was always nervous but excited to go back the next time. The students were at first were shy around me as well. It was hard to get completely comfortable around them, because unlike some other Illinois students who volunteer and work with one student outside of the classroom, I am always in the classroom trying to help all the students. I cannot give my individual attention to only one.
Even though it was a difficult situation for me at first, the experience I had this past Tuesday while volunteering makes me grateful that I have gotten to know so many of the kids. After reading and writing, the students have morning recess. Instead of waiting inside, I decided to go out and play with them on the playground – I mean, why not? The kids all wanted to play tag so they decided what home base was and then we all started running. I actually was having a blast. Running around playing with the kids made me realize two things. First of all, my conversational Spanish has definitely improved immensely over the course of the semester. While running around I was able to laugh and joke with the kids without thinking about what I was saying. I was comfortable speaking in Spanish. In addition, when two of the students got in a fight I was able to communicate with them about what happened and then explain to the teacher outside in English what the problem was. It was natural to go back and forth between the two languages. This was definitely a goal of mine this semester. The other thing I realized was how big of an impact I have had on many of the students this semester. They all wanted to run where I ran and grab on to me while we were safe on home base. Not only have I been able to help them with their academics, I have really gotten to know a lot of them and learn about their families. It is obvious that they trust me and feel comfortable around me as well now.
Thinking about the time spent at Leal this semester I am able to look back and see how my relationships with the students have grown as I have gotten to know them better and have been able to speak with them about non school related things as well. When the conversations started to get easier I started to have much more fun with the kids. Every morning when I walk into the classroom their faces light up and before I even have the chance to put my things down they all yell “maestra” because they each want me to work with them that morning. At the beginning of the semester scheduling time and waking up early to volunteer was a hassle, but now I genuinely look forward to going in and seeing the kids – well at least after I manage to get out of bed. I know I have helped them this semester, but they have also helped me. I believe my time spent volunteering will really pay off next semester when I go abroad to Granada. I am much more comfortable with the language now and am much better at getting my point across even if I do not know all of the vocabulary. After I get back from Spain I want to continue to volunteer at Leal because I have had such a good experience there this semester.