Some Clients Left Behind?

This past week was the sixth week of my Heston Internship. While at the Work Ready program, I stepped up my involvement even further in the GED teaching, as two of the primary tutors had called out for a couple of days. I was given the opportunity to create my own classes, assign my own homework, and come up with a set of notes that would be adequate enough for the women at Work Ready to understand. Being able to spend a couple of hours a day preparing gave me time to truly reflect on what teaching methods worked the best for me during my primary education, and through that, I was able to create a lesson plan. Due to the nature of the Work Ready program, not all of the women there are at the same level, especially as far as mathematics are concerned. I had clients who were ready to dive into algebraic word problems, while others could not even recite their times tables past two without using their fingers. So with these differences, the teachers divided the class in half, and as such I did the same. Working with the clients on algebra was rewarding, as I got to concisely explain concepts, which they in turn understood and were able to perform. It was teaching in its essence. For the other group, who could not do basic math, I found myself challenged mentally, but also something beyond that. Sure it could be frustrating that they were not understanding or moving forward at all, but further than that I felt that they were taking away from my ability to teach the group that actually stood a chance to pass the GED sooner than later. I personally found myself spending less time with the clients who were behind. Not only was I not making a difference, as at the end of the day they still would not know multiplication, but I found that I was wasting my time, and thus I just printed out some worksheets from the internet and sent them off on their way so I could focus my time on those who could actually understand and learn from me.

This made me think about my time here as an intern, particularly what little difference I make. Sure I can spend my time teaching, but there are going to be circumstances where I am wasting my time. I figure that choosing to spend my time where I can actually make a noticeable difference is the better choice, as when this summer is over, I would rather tell myself that some people know algebra because of me instead of telling myself that a couple of people might be able to do a tiny bit more multiplication without using a calculator anymore. I feel like this is the essence of volunteerism. Make a difference that you can see, and that you can be proud of, because you are not going to be able to change anything big. But I also feel like this is the pitfall of volunteerism, as it does not motivate anybody to make a difference once they have seen the issue, as they have already done their part.

I also spent time at the Farmers Market and went on a couple of gleans to pick blueberries this week. It was nice. Also at Circles I enlisted a friend to help take care of the kids, as I was told that it was going to be a huge day for Circles with a ton of children. It was an average day, no more kids than usual, but it was nice to spend some time with my friend and the kids. It is always fun to see all the different ways the kids can behave, a couple insisted on kicking dirt for half an hour, while another spent the whole hour digging through crates in order to assemble a few dissembled Barbie dolls. Some just wanted to run around, while others were content to quietly sit in a tent or read a book. It’s always interesting to think about whether these kids were born with their personalities, or if their personalities were a product of their upbringing, as that dichotomy finds its way into so many different arguments, nature versus nurture.

Brandon McTigue ’15