This past Tuesday I participated in my first service learning for elementary education. We left Loyola College at around noon and walked down the street to Guilford Elementary. On the walk down, there was a sense that everyone was extremely nervous. We were all going to a new environment full of new students and staff. No one was really sure what to expect. However, when we got there, the warmth of the building was unbelievable. Everything about the school was inviting and I could not wait to get started.
My experience started from the moment I set foot in the school parking lot. Coming from a school like Loyola, many people never take the time to realize just how lucky we are. Walking up to the school it became apparent that the children within its walls did not have many luxuries. For example, the students do not have a playground so their fun consists of running around a parking lot. With this in mind, I wanted to be able to do something extra special when I got into the classroom.
All of the Loyola students were split up and assigned to different classrooms with different teachers in need of help. I was assigned to a first grade class of about 15 students along with a few other Loyola students. When I walked into the classroom and met the teacher she asked if I could assist her with math. She had given a lecture to the students about how to add and subtract. Because this was such a new concept to many of them, the room was filled with very confused looks. I was asked to go and sit at a table with two boys and help them with their worksheets.
As I tried to work with the two first graders, I found that it was very hard for them to concentrate. However, that was very understandable. They were in a classroom full of new people and potentially full of new teachers. When it came time to sit down and do work, the two boys still wanted to play. They were very fussy and began to get aggravated with each other so I needed to think of something quick. They both loved sports so I took them to the carpet and we gathered all different types of sports toys. Soon, the originally fussy boys were extremely eager to learn. Together, we sat on the carpet and using the toys, I was able to better explain to them the concepts behind adding and subtracting. They were able to understand that when they have two footballs and they give one to a friend, they will only have one left.
While at Guilford, I spent some time thinking about what I would write for this weeks Event Analysis and how I could relate it to our class discussions. It was then that I remembered reading the essay about Jesuit education. One factor that stood out in my mind was how important it is for Jesuit universities to not just educate their students, but to make sure they become something great. In most cases, I would be the student that they would be trying to educate. Although this did happen, I too was also able to take from the Jesuit education and pass it on to “my students.” Not only was I helping both of these boys to learn, but I was helping to show them how to work together. They had trouble in the beginning sharing toys and were not using their words. Instead they would hit each other until they got what they wanted. By the end of the day they were sharing their toys and helping one another out with questions on their math sheet. It was an amazing experience to be a part of and it was a lot of fun to watch myself be able to bring the Jesuit education alive.