Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Look Back

                                                                               A look back

            I wrote my first blog post about a week after I started my first session here at Jumpstart. Now, I have about five weeks left until the END of session. The time surely did fly by.  What can I say? Jumpstart is truly wonderful! I have seen the most incredible growth in the children at my school and it warms my heart. I would like to share with you my reflections as the year is coming to a swift end.
            I have learned quite a few things from working at Jumpstart this semester. First, children don’t want you to pretend when you talk to them. They want truth and they WANT to learn! Before jumpstart, I didn’t really know how much children crave knowledge and now that I do, it helps me in session a lot! Second, we (members of Jumpstart) have the power to really impact children’s lives. We have the immense responsibility and honor to enrich their world with vocabulary and skills. Each day that I go to session, the children participate and answer questions, laugh with me, and engage in the program, which is incredible! Third, their minds are constantly growing and molding into the people they will someday be, which makes me feel proud to know them. I think that’s really what I’m trying to get across here, I am abundantly proud of not only being a member of jumpstart but also the children I work with weekly. I go there to teach them, but in return, they have taught me. They have taught me how to be more patient, more animated (read to reconstruct, you guys know what I mean, ha-ha), how to look at the world with a more imaginative mind, and much much more. I am grateful to have found out about Jumpstart and if I could describe my experience in one word, it would be proud.
            Now, to sum up my thoughts. There have been so many, and I mean countless, amazing moments that I have had at Jumpstart, that I can’t pick one. Instead, I will say that no matter what kind of a day I am having, good or bad, stressful or not, every Monday and Thursday that I head to my site, the day gets better. The children’s smiles, silly laughs, moments of understanding, and general great personalities warm my heart and brighten my day, without fail. Not to mention my amazing team who always makes a laugh!

Thanks for reading about my experience!
Sarah Katz

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I used to think that children would have less energy in the afternoon sessions of Jumpstart, but I was so wrong. Every single time we walk into that classroom, the kids scream and get excited and never been anything short of animated and enthusiastic.

Our session yesterday had been two weeks after the previous one because of snow days and spring break, but the kids had no readjustment problems; most of them were more on top of it than usual! Although Welcome was difficult because the kids were getting restless easily (as they are starting to know most of their letters), they were still energetic and one student in particular turned the tables on me by taking my name tag and asking me what certain letters were like I usually do. This particular moment made me smile because the student was being silly but also corrected me when I said that the letter “h” was the letter “n.”

Despite a two week break, the students in my reading group seemed to remember the core storybook very well. We were on the second implementation for One Dark Night, and as soon as I showed the cover and asked the students what they thought would happen to the cat, I received answers like “she’s going to go inside!” and “the cat is going to hide from the storm!” I especially was proud that they used one of the vocabulary words while describing what was going to happen.

A majority of the class gives all of the corps members hugs as we leave and one student in particular said “Thank you” today. I’m not sure what he was thanking me for, but it was a good moment.

-Mihika Wagley

Friday, March 13, 2015


On Monday, I went in for CAT hours for the first time. I went in the morning, which is different from my usual afternoon schedule. Because of this, I was in a class that had some friends that I see in session, as well as some new faces. It was interesting to me to see how the children interact and how they respond to their teacher. However, during these CAT hours, there was a student who was very upset. The assistant teacher asked me to work with the student. Now, a few weeks ago, after classroom observations, one comment that was made was to really reach out to students who are visibly upset and to encourage them to use their words to tell you why they’re upset.
So, with this in mind, I tried to talk to the upset girl. At first, she kept crying, though it was obvious that she was listening to me. I told her it was OK to cry, but that I needed her to use her words to tell me why she was upset so that I could help her. She was very receptive and eventually explained why she was upset and we talked about ways to avoid her getting upset again.
This was a very fulfilling experience for me. This experience allowed me to get to know more students at my site and create a more meaningful connection with the children.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I need to go back to Pre-K

One day, it occurred to me that I need to go back to Pre-K.

That one day was yesterday. During circle time.

Or perhaps I should say it was during las actividades de grupo since in truth, that’s exactly what it was. It was circle time, in Spanish.

Growing up, I never really learned Spanish. My comprehension is very poor. Anything beyond “Buenos Dias,” or “Cómos estás?” is completely foreign. Leila no comprendo.

How funny it is then, that this semester I was assigned to work at a bilingual school full of beautiful bilingual students.

“Miss Leila!” I hear a student say after we finished singing our first song in circle time.

“Me gusta tu pelo!” a girl shouts excitedly.

I knit my eyebrows.

“What? What did you say?” I wait for a translation.

“Me gusta tu pelo! I like your hair Miss Leila.”

I smile.

Gracias,” I say to her. And to myself I say: “Gosh, how in the world can I remember that one?”

We break into song again. We laugh, clap, and play. Suddenly though, I feel a small tug on my shoulder.”

“Miss Leila!” says the boy to my right.


“Cocodrilo, cocodrilo, cocodrilo!” he says.

He was quick to catch a whiff of my confusion, because he then began to snap his hands together in a sort of munching motion.

“Cocodrilo!” he said again.

“Ah, you mean a…crocodile?” I exclaimed delightfully as I pretended to snap at his cheek.

He giggled in affirmation.

Needless to say, whenever I go to my school, I always leave learning a new word. It’s almost ironic how that works…how the teaching roles can suddenly be reversed in just a blink of the eye. I’ve started to keep track of all the Spanish words I’ve learned so far. The list of words I now know is long. But list of words I still need to learn, is longer.

Which is why I’ve decided…

I need to go back to Pre-K.

-Leila Nasser

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Circle of Life

Over spring break, I met a wonderful woman.  She’s a part time teacher at the preschool I serve in.

I met her while I was racking up some Classroom Assistance Time hours. She was the first to greet me when I entered the classroom, which I found shocking, because normally the little ones get to you first before the teachers do. She welcomed me warmly. With ease I fell in love with her…her kind heart, her sunshine spirit.

While my new Jumpstart friends were curling corn flakes in their fingers and stuffing them in their mouths at varying intervals, I started talking to her. I asked,

“So what is it that you love most about working with children, seeing a you’ve done so for nearly four decades?”

She smiled, and her eyes turned soft, as if she was suddenly taken hostage by the most wonderful dream imaginable. When she returned to me, she said simply, “Spanish.”
“I like to teach the children Spanish. And watch them grow.”

Then she motioned for me to come in closer. She pointed to a child who was modeling a milky mustache with corn flake ornaments hanging off his lip.

“You see this one?” she asked. I nodded slowly.
“I taught his mamá. She was my student too.

I couldn’t help but beam at her. It isn’t everyday you come across someone who’s taught two generations of kids before. I felt so inspired.

Later that same day, I heard a child singing. It was center time, and he was singing. Not to anyone in particular, just to himself. I tiptoed behind him in hopes of catching some of the words.

“Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba.”
What? What was that?
 I cock my head, utterly confused. Was he just babbling or totally butchering a song.? He chants:

Siyo Nqoba
Ingonyama Ingonyama nengw' enamabala
Siyo Nqoba
Ingonyama Ingonyama nengw' enamabala

I lean in closer and listen longer. Finally, I understand:

“But the sun rolling high.
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round 
It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life...”

I smiled. How beautiful. How lovely.

And how unbelievably true.

-Leila Nasser

Monday, March 9, 2015

My First Few Weeks as a Corps Member

February 5, 2015

My First Few Weeks As a Corps Member

I just began working inside the classrooms a few weeks ago, and let me say, the experience has already began to blow me away. I heard about jumpstart through a friend of mine and it sounded like a profound opportunity, and so soon enough, I decided to apply. As I was training over break to begin in the classrooms, I realized just HOW big of a difference this organization is making. The length to which the trainings taught me in itself was huge, and I couldn’t wait to start!

My first day, I was feeling many different emotions. Excited, nervous, and pressure to perform the best I could because I realized the job I was doing and how it truly affects the children. Despite my fears, I was extremely eager to meet everyone. I got to the site, the staff was warm and welcoming and the children were so sweet! Surely, my first day was not absolute perfection, but it was so fun! I figured out what I need to work on and figured out what I’m really good at. I left that day so happy that I did a job a well done and really connected with the class.

My team is always a huge support system! I can always count on them for helpful tips and suggestions, which makes our session truly, a work in progress (not in a bad way, but a positive way). As Corps members and a team, WE can always be improving and I love that about jumpstart. Through what we do to help the children, they are improving and so are we!

I would like to reflect to one specific session just last week. My reading group and I were sitting in the usual spot on the carpet, talking about the cover of the book. It was “read to reconstruct” day, my first ever read to reconstruct day and I was a bit nervous but I had my questions ready and I had prepared myself well. I said to myself “here we go”. Before I could really get a sentence out, the children began pointing out parts of the book they remembered, by looking at the cover. I was not only impressed, but also happy that the book interested them! I asked many of my pre-prepared questions and they did such a wonderful job answering them. In those minutes, I felt like I had done a good job! And most of all, I feel like the children were happy and learning something new through the vocab in the book.

Overall, Jumpstart has ALREADY been a life changer. I now know that I want to somehow work with children in my future and I cant wait to see what the rest of the semester has to offer!

Thanks for reading, Friends!

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

February 2, 2015

Getting Back into the Swing of Things
As my team and I walk back into the classroom after a nice, relaxing Winter Break, we’re surprised to discover that our Jumpstart things, which are usually tucked away into neat little corners of the classroom, are missing from their positions. Though we are frantic at first, we calm, speedily discover where all the missing supplies have been moved, and run through our session plan while preparing the classroom. We manage to finish with a few moments to spare and nestle into our usual spots in the classroom before the first wave our friends come in and Jumpstart begins.
            Our friends have definitely grown since the last time I laid eyes on them. While working with our friends on the letters of their names, I am pleased to discover that they can recognize most of the letters and a few of them understand the difference between uppercase and lowercase. As I led them through Hooray, a Piñata!, the children surprised me with comments and questions about the illustrations in the book that came at such a fast pace that I struggled to finish the book before the call to circle team was made. Of course, the same situation happened before break, but I don’t believe my mind had made the switch from everyday, college life to the magical world of Jumpstart yet.
            Looking back, I realize that that initial shock of having to reset the classroom was a good indicator that I wasn’t fully mentally prepared. Jumpstart is a fast-paced environment that requires spontaneous problem-solving skills. Not everything goes according to plan, and that’s okay, but you need a strategy to overcome minor setbacks in a flash. Because the goal of Jumpstart isn’t that every session flows smoothly, the goal is that, at the end of the day, every friend in that classroom is prepared with the literary skills they need. Learning experiences bumps in the road and so does Jumpstart. You just have to discover how best to overcome these bumps and come out knowing more than you did before.     -Megan Armstrong