Jumpstart is a national early education organization that recruits and trains college students and community Corps members to serve preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. Our proven curriculum helps children develop the language and literacy skills they need to be ready for kindergarten, setting them on a path to close the achievement gap before it is too late.
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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.
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.
I said, “We’re detectives. Detectives solve mysteries. What are we going to
going to find the treasure with the map!”, Abby* decided.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
I thought that I was making a smart move by planning two
blog posts at the beginning and end of my time with Jumpstart. But more and
more I have realized that committing this last post to paper has been more
difficult than I had originally imagined. I wish I could give deep insights
into my last months in Jumpstart, but all I can think of how much I am going to
miss it. I am going to miss the knee hugs that our kids give to us. I am going
to miss their mis-timed clapping of ‘Bingo’. I am also going to miss the team
of girls who have made this experience even more enjoyable. Without them, our
time would not have been nearly as enjoyable. As we prepare to begin our last
session, I am faced with some very real realities about the boys and girls we
have spent the year with. DC graduation rates are one of the lowest in the
country, coming in at about 60%. That means statistically, of our classroom of
15, only 9 will graduate from high school. I look at the bright faces our 3
year olds and wonder what will happen to them. For now, I can quell my
anxieties by remembering to see the successes that they are achieving now:
correctly identifying letters, reading words, rhyming words, and having
intelligent questions about the activities we do. But that feeling can only last
for the 2 hours that we run session. Then, we leave their fate up to the other
adults in their lives. But the silver lining is that by intervening in their
lives now, introducing tactics that will put them on the right track, maybe 10
out of 15 of our kids will graduate. Maybe even all 15. That is the beauty of
intervening now: maybe we set one extra child up with the tools to succeed.
Allow one more to enter school prepared to engage their learning environment.
That is the reality that I have chosen to put my faith in. That is the reality
that Jumpstart has helped create, and one I am proud to have been a part of for
the last 7 months.
It is funny how you don’t really realize how much of an
effect Jumpstart and your kids have on you until you go away for a week.For me, spring break couldn’t have come any
sooner. It saved me at the exact moment that I felt like I was going to lose it
from the stress of midterms and those last minute assignments that the
professor wanted to get done in between the snow. Going home was literally the
only thing I could think about, that is until Tuesday morning during spring
break came around and I literally felt a little stabbing in my heart. Jumpstart
for more than half a year was my therapy, and at some point around there, it
stopped feeling like work and started being fun. And even though I was on
vacation I felt like I needed to see our students. And I realized how much of
an effect Jumpstart had on me. Its funny how I have come to feel more
accomplished upon the completion of a cardboard mailbox that I just spent six
hours making than on an A on an exam, even with the knowledge that in a few
hours it will have been crushed by the weight of preschoolers who have decided
to crawl inside it.
But this past spring break I realized how much I missed
being in the classroom. With all the snow days and missed sessions leading up
to spring break, I really hadn’t been in the classroom for two and a half
weeks. I realized how much service meant to me and how much more accomplished I
felt doing it. The feeling of achievement after a child recites back to you the
story you had just read to them the session before, means more to me than a
crumpled mailbox on the floor. Jumpstart has grown to be more to me than just a
paycheck at the end of two weeks; it really has become my source of pride. I am
proud of our children, I am proud of their success and growth, and I am proud
of my own growth and success through this program. I feel as though Jumpstart
is helping the children just as much as it is helping its own members. It
instills in its members a sense of purpose and responsibility that I was
lacking. And because of that I am proud to be a Jumpstart member.
At the beginning of the year, Stacia told us that even if we went to Jumpstart in a bad mood, we would leave the classroom smiling. I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t believe that being in a roomful of three-year-olds would make me less stressed and/or annoyed. I was so wrong. It’s impossible not to smile when a student excitedly tells you they made it through the day without biting anyone.
I think the coolest thing about preschoolers is that they change and grow so much each week. This means each time I walk into the classroom I’m delighted and surprised by the progress each student has made.
Yesterday, my shyest Jumpstart friend sang and danced while playing with stuffed animals in dramatic play. At the beginning of the year, they wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Getting a one-word response was like pulling teeth. But this past session I rocked out with him to “That’s The Way Uh Huh Uh Huh I Like It”.
Yesterday, one child who has had a particularly difficult time learning the letters in their name read the word “Jumpstart” on my shirt. At the beginning of the year, the letters in her name were unfamiliar symbols. Now, in addition to reading everything on my shirt, she begs me to let her spell everyone else’s name in the class as well as hers.
But even though I get to watch my kids frequently grow, there are constants too.
I will always be greeted with a hug by one little boy.
One friend will always run around screaming “JUMPSTART!!!!!” when we walk into the classroom.
My kids will always tell me about the super awesome amazing things they did in school that day.
I will always leave Jumpstart with stories to tell and a smile on my face.
As we get closer to the end of the semester, it gets very
easy to forget how much I love Jumpstart. When papers start to pile up, I have
presentations to make, and there’s a test the next day, it’s truly hard to sit
down and find the time to prep a Core Story Book for Jumpstart, or prepare
materials for center time. Even finding the time to write a blog post can
become impossible. Stress seems to pile up.
But on Wednesdays and Fridays when we enter the classroom, I
find that all of that stress tends to fade away. By our third Jumpstart
session, the children began to greet us with squeals and shouts of “Jumpstart,
Jumpstart’s here!!” My four-year-old Jumpstart friend who I read with each
session yells “Miss Lauren’s here!” from their classroom across the hall. The
children are so young and grasp on to tradition and continuality very easily.
They know when to expect us, and they are genuinely excited to see us.They memorize the order of our sessions and
anticipate when we are going to switch stations. Most of them can even sing
along with most of our songs! It’s truly exciting to see how accustomed the
children grow to Jumpstart.
There were so many reasons that I love Jumpstart: I love
children, I love teaching, and I love that proud smile a child gets when he or
she understands a new concept for the first time. Being in Jumpstart has been a
very fulfilling experience. It is a large time commitment, and it takes a lot
of dedication, but it is worth it to work with these children and to help make
a positive influence on their lives.