Friday, October 17, 2014
I guess if I was going to describe the feelings I have going in to Jumpstart this year, they would be nervousness and excitement. I remember this time last year, where I was so confused with everything that I had to do, and I didn’t know what to expect going into the classroom. However, this year the nerves are different, and less intense. I guess it comes with the territory of being a returning jumpstart member, most of the fear is that I will go in feeling confident and prepared but then just get plummeted with horrible situations. However those are more of my deeper fears, and for the most part I am extremely excited to get back in the classroom. Something else I am very excited to start again is the classroom preps we do for the children. Cutting out shapes on colorful paper, building cardboard washing machines, stapling books, became a sort of therapy for me last year and I am excited to experience this inner quiet again. I am ready for difficult first two weeks, where both we and the children are attempting to come to terms with the workings of a Jumpstart classroom but I am excited for the days after as these children gain learning experiences through the Jumpstart curriculum.
This past month, I have been to so many Jumpstart trainings that have made me even more excited to begin my work with Jumpstart than when I first signed up. The training days have been both educational and fun at the same time; I was able to learn how I should interact with the three-year-old children alongside meeting my new fellow Jumpstart workers.
Just this week, my group started our J is for Jumpstart booklets for our children. In the beginning of Jumpstart, each child will be presented with a hand-drawn alphabet book filled with colorful drawings for each letter. Despite the amount of time, work, and hand cramps going into this project, I believe it will also be the most satisfying when we see the excitement on the children’s faces when they are presented with something made specifically with their enjoyment in mind.
I hope the attention and education I provide for these children who do not necessarily get the amount they need at home will help them in their future. Not only will they, hopefully, understand there are people out there thinking about their wellbeing, but they will be getting an opportunity to catch up with their more privileged peers and achieve the future they deserve. I just cannot wait to meet these children, see their excited faces, and impact their lives positively.
I met my class today! It was so exciting walking into the classroom and getting to see all of my new Jumpstart friends. The class was a little rowdy, but I was expecting it. I did Jumpstart last year and loved the experience, so when I realized that I got to work with a brand new class this year I was so excited.
When I went for my meet and greet the students were in centers, and they were practicing problem solving strategies and sorting. The teacher mentioned to me that they were trying something new today, they were lining up by color and moving in a line to the next center. This is great because it is teaching them self control and manners.
As I rotated around the centers I started to learn my students names and personalities. Although they are 4 they are each a little person with an intricate personality.
One of the children introduced himself to me and gave me his full first middle and last names. He then proceeded to ask me many questions such as “Are you a mom?” or “Where are you from?” Then a few other kids around me that have had jumpstart before shouted, “Where are your friends?”
Each of the centers had a different activity for the kids to do. One centers was puzzles and I had a lot of fun working with them on how to figure out what pieces go where. Then we moved on to sorting small plastic animals, and we asked the questions how can we sort these? Some kids responded with “By color!” and others responded “By animal!” Next we moved to color sorting where the kids had different colored rings that they sorted into different bins by color.
At the end the teacher asked me if I wanted to read a story to the class. As all of the children sat in a circle on the rug I read them a story about a lazy farmer that makes a duck do everything on the farm and wait on him hand and foot. The kids were very engaged and making animal sounds with me.
Overall, meet and greets are such a rewarding experience because I get to interact with the kids and get to know them outside of session. I have already created a bond with some children and got to begin to experience how they work individually and collaboratively.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
As Jumpstart comes to an end I have the opportunity to reflect on everything that I have learned while being a part of this program. The first thing that I learned very early on while doing Jumpstart is not to judge or predetermine what or who people are without knowing them. When I heard that I would be working in Anacostia my initial reaction was intrigue and a little fear. I had never visited Anacostia, I never even heard of it before I came to DC, where to many living in Northwest DC, it is a very “dangerous” place. When hearing these remarks I initially registered them as true, thinking “these people must know better than I do what goes on in Anacostia.” The reality is that yes, Anacostia is a very poor, very violent area, but that does not mean that all of its inhabitants are violent, bad, neglectful people. While working in Anacostia I have come across many helpful, kind, happy people that are dedicating themselves to making where they live a better place. I find these people to be inspiring, because this is a lesson that everyone could learn from. No place is perfect and everyone can do more to make their community a safer, happier, better-educated community.
Another thing that I have learned while working with Jumpstart is that just because these children come from low-income areas, and are at a disadvantage to children their age whose parents have money, this doesn’t mean that they are stupid, or that they can’t think for themselves. These are people, they can have conversations with you, and they will call you out if you say something that contradicts yourself. Most importantly it is astonishing to see them grow just over the course of a year. Each and every one of the kids in my Jumpstart classroom have grown and changed so much and I cant wait to see what they accomplish in the future. It is endearing to know that they all have so many possibilities in front of them, and they can do anything with their lives. I can only hope that everything that we have done for them through Jumpstart can give them the extra push they need to succeed in life, but only time can tell. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to work with a program that offers young children the opportunity to succeed and have a bright and full future.
The imagination of a child is a beautiful thing. So often, as we grow up, we forget the countless hours spent with dolls, trains, and building sets, and narrow our focus on to what is real and tangible. We forget the endless possibilities a cup, paper towel roll, or sheet can provide, and we instead only see things as tools to be used in set ways. We lose our sense of wonder, we stop asking “Why? But, Why? But, Why?!”, and we instead take things at face value, not bothering to verify what we are being told. Once, when I was eight, I turned a brown paper bag into a play home using bamboo skewers to hold the bag’s shape, and the fallen seeds of a Sweetgum tree as lights. Today, if you gave me the same materials, I would laugh, and tell you I’m too busy to be Last week during session, I was in charge of dramatic play, and decided to bring down magnifying glasses for the students to use. As students rushed from circle time to centers, I asked who wanted to play detective. “I do, I do!” Shouted their little voices, as I handed them each a magnifying glass and small handheld mirror to be used as their detective supplies.
“Ok,” I said, “We’re detectives. Detectives solve mysteries. What are we going to solve?”
“We’re going to find the treasure with the map!”, Abby* decided.
“Great!” I said, as I began to scan the area for something we could use as a map. But before I could find a piece of paper that could work as a map, Abby held her hands up in front of my face.
“Here’s the map! We have to go all the way around the big pond and then to the monster’s cave. Then the beach and we’ll find the treasure.”
“Ok,” I replied, “You lead the way!”
We walked around the pond (the table), to the monster’s cave (a large cardboard box filled with Styrofoam bowls), and to the beach (the carpet at the front of the classroom), where we began digging for the treasure. Again, I began looking around for something to be our buried treasure. Markers wouldn’t work, and neither would a book, and I couldn’t give her my bracelets, for fear of them getting lost. And again, Abby stuck her hand, this time clenched tightly into a fist, in front of me to show me the “buried treasure princess necklace” she had just found.
It’s in moments like these that I learn the most from my students, as they remind of the power and joy of imagination. Just because we have ‘grown up’ in no way means we aren’t allowed to step out of our black and white lives, and into the colorful imaginations of our students, who show us the colorful world inside of ourselves.
Monday, April 7, 2014
In Jumpstart last week, we were on the second implementation of “Dog’s Colorful Day.” While reading and asking questions, the girls in my reading group kept pointing out words they called “sight words.” They counted how many times they could find the word “the” or “to” on a page. Now, I was very proud of the questions I had decided to ask that day. “Dog’s Colorful Day” was very conducive to the types of questions and conversations I like to have with my scholars around the core storybooks. I had questions like, “I see that Dog got a red spot from jam, what other foods can you think of that are red?” and “If you had blue paint, what would you paint?” I wanted to make sure I could include as much discussion around MY questions as we could possibly fit in, because usually my reading group loves talking about stuff like that. But on this day, they were all about sight words. So that’s what we talked about, in addition to as many of my color questions as I could fit in with the time allowed. We counted how many sight words were on each page, and how they were used in the sentence. I was very excited about their ability to read! They were basically reading! I knew the girls in my classroom were very smart, they know all of their letter sounds and can spell many words so long as someone helps them sound it out. But having them point to a word in a book and be able to identify it was a very cool moment for me. I remember learning certain words and letter patterns to look for when I first learned to read (with a Dr. Seuss-type workbook involving all sorts of rhyming words). I just loved seeing that moment of them being so proud to share their new ability and knowledge with me. I have a cousin who is 2 years younger than me, who I taught how to ride a bike and whistle and blow bubbles with bubble gum, and the excitement of a new bit of knowledge is contagious. I couldn’t help smiling as the girls spelled “the,” “to,” “at,” “look,” and other words to me, because I could tell how excited they were by their new knowledge. I know that “sight words” aren’t part of the Jumpstart curriculum, and I am sure they learned them in their regular class time, but they were happy that I found a way to incorporate their new knowledge in with the book we had already read. Besides, we still had time to talk about ketchup and spaghetti, and painting the sky and oceans.