Friday, July 31, 2009

Reading to Kids Intern, Analee Abbot

Yesterday I had the pleasure of serving as a classroom helper for two different teachers at Esperanza Elementary School. Teachers are awarded classroom helpers when they are highest recruiters of students for our monthly clubs. As an intern, I spend a lot of my time behind a desk and in an office. Even when I spend time at the schools it is usually in a closet counting books or in the hallways posting flyers. I do not get to spend very much time directly interacting with the teachers and students at our partner schools.

In my first classroom I taped together cardboard dividers for testing season, entered grades onto the computer and put together a poster board full of pictures from a team building exercise the kids had participated in. In my second classroom I graded math tests (using a provided key) and helped a student master addition using coins and creativity. None of these things were hard (and a couple were not particularly thrilling) but it felt good to know that a hard working teacher would get some well deserved rest because of my help. Both the teachers could not thank me enough and the kids seemed excited that somebody from Reading to Kids had come to visit them. As I walked around campus, even my Reading to Kids t-shirt encouraged smiles and friendly greetings from students.

I walked away from the whole experience reminded that our presence in these schools is important for two reasons. First of all, it gives our organization more credit in the community. Every time a kid or a parent or a teacher sees us on campus, we are reassuring them that we are an organization with people who care and that we are eager to help. Every time we say we will come and we do, we are showing teachers that we are appreciative and that, if they are helpful in recruiting a lot of kids, we will help them in return.

The second reason our presence is important is because it reminds us, as volunteers, of the people we serve. The environments and circumstances that surround these children are things that I, who grew up in a fairly nice neighborhood, can hardly imagine. The danger, fear and uncertainty that they face everyday is very real and difficult. I felt that by sitting in their classroom and listening to their discussions I walked away with a better understanding. It is not a complete understanding but it is better than what I had before. I really would recommend the experience to anyone affiliated with the organization.