Tuesday, December 16, 2014

            Thus far, walking into the “non-peanut zone” classroom once a week has been a tremendous eye opener.  To see all the four-year-olds, with “bubbles” in their mouths, curiosity in their eyes, and energy beaming, I see potential.  The twenty two children in the class have potential to do so much in this world. Their location in low-income residential area should not determine their ability to make a change in the world, just like the corps members hope to do.
Considering how little of their life has been spent in school, I am amazed to see how much they already know and how much more they will learn in the next upcoming years.
My experience has been very fulfilling; I enjoy reading to them and discussing the topics of our JumpStart sessions.  During Center Time, my friends engage actively in their creative thinking and occasionally they will even mention a new vocabulary term from our books.  My favorite Center time with them has been dramatic play for “Peter’s Chair” because we pretended to paint cardboard furniture I made for their baby siblings.  In the book, a new older brother, Peter, is disappointed in his parents painting his old baby furniture pink for his baby sister, though later he discovers he enjoys this task and is happy to give something to his new sibling.  During this session, we painted in numerous colors and even made up our own colors, the kids made stripes, polka dots, and all kinds of designs on the chairs and tables we pretended to paint.  After they were happy with the furniture, though some kept going, some of my friends joined me in painting the walls of their siblings’ room.  As we pretended to paint, they would tell me about why they were helping and told me how they were just like Peter.

Watching them learn to sing our JumpStart songs and begin to understand how rhyming works is priceless, as they try to come up with rhymes themselves.  Soon enough they will be able to construct better sentences and answer questions fully.  The kids grin every time they can find matching letters and make me smile every time they have something interesting to share.  During the next semester I will work to better re-direct the children back to the reading and work on phrasing my questions better to improve their understanding of our session books.  I hope to create materials that keep my friends engaged and always interested.
-Ekaterina Vaslienko
           Just a week ago when I wrote my first blog post I had made the assumption that my JumpStart children could perfectly write and had a thorough understanding of the alphabet.  Though I have seen tremendous progress in most of the students, today I was shocked to see that one boy still couldn’t write his name.  He knew all the letters to his name and had an understanding of the letters, yet he couldn’t spell.  I take note of this as a reminder to myself that not all of the children have grasped the concepts that we are there to teach, so I will take those thoughts into account and not forget to reestablish our lesson plans.
            While I learned something that I was doing wrong, I also learned what I was doing right.  I have gotten really good at re-directing students back to the book or topic during Center Time, while still acknowledging what they have to say and answering any questions they may pose for me.  I have also improved on explaining things in numerous ways, because everyone has different learning methods.  It is a great experience to see how different children grasp concepts and it reminds me to be patient and more understanding.  During our reading of the Session books, I have greatly improved on asking constructive questions that require thought, rather than yes or no questions.  With such questions, I also have noticed that their questions to me have improved.

            One child’s progress that I want to take note of is of a boy in our class. Today he told me about his life, school, and interests.  I am really excited to see what he and other students will tell us when we come back from winter break.  When I come back for spring semester I want to continue to being prepared with supplies and book preparation.  I also want to make sure I continue having good questions.  I will need to become better at not allowing students to touch the book while I’m reading or wandering off during center time and leaving a mess, but I am confident that with further practice both I and the children become better.  This experience so far has been endearing and I am looking forward to continuing work.
-Ekaterina Vasilenko

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kids These Days

            Surely by now everyone on the planet has heard of the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. For some, the song is an absolute curse. But for many, the song is heaven on Earth.
            Back in the classroom, the latter is always the case. In fact, it seems like none of my female Jumpstart friends can let go of “Let It Go.” I hear it as a greeting, as a goodbye, and everything in between. Last week for instance, I was sitting in the Art Center when I heard one girl suddenly burst into song:
            “Let it go! Let it go!” she piped as she glued a red square on her sheet of white paper.
            It didn’t take long for her friend to join her.
            “Can’t hold it back anymore!” she chimed, as she added a blue circle to her friend’s collage.
            I sat back and watched them, wholly entranced by their song. It amazed me how accurately they could recite the lyric and keep in rhythm with the song’s cadence. To be honest, I was so blown away by their performance that, when they asked me to join them, I felt inadequate. Which is funny, because, truth be told, I can sing; I love to sing. But these girls were simply something else. At the delicate age of four, they knew this song backwards and forwards. I, on the other hand, had to mumble my way through most of it, until the chorus allowed me to regain my footing.
            After we finally had our fill of Disney’s “Let It Go,” the girls started singing the soundtrack from “The Little Mermaid”...then “The Lion King”…then “Mulan.” Each time they finished one song I felt like holding up a card with the number ten on it like they do in “Dancing With The Stars.” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when they pronounced “reprimand” perfectly from Ariel’s “Part of Your World.”
            It suddenly occurred to me that only in Jumpstart would I be singing songs from classic Disney soundtracks. We sang songs like there was no tomorrow while we made our art collages. It was cute to see the kids glue their shapes in beat with the music.
            But, more than anything, I loved the fact that they that could sing better than me. It’s mind-boggling to think that a couple of four-year-olds (four-year-olds!) could recite so many Disney songs with such finesse. Absolutely incredible.
Man oh man, kids these days. I swear.


Leila Nasser, Team Curiosity