I’ve always had a heart for working with populations of people in need, in particular, struggling students. My position as an elementary Academic Specialist has allowed me to do this at both an administrative level, as well as in the classroom with students. I coordinate all K-5 intervention for the school, and have taught intervention for grades 3-5 the past five years. During this time, I have noticed that our earliest learners (Kindergarten-first grade) who arrive less prepared have a nearly impossible time finding their way out of the achievement gap.
After several trimesters of tracking these K-1 students’ growth, implementing interventions, and analyzing the data, I knew that something had to be done differently. Thankfully, I entered the Innovative Learning Masters Program, where I’ve been afforded the opportunity to explore this issue deeper.
In the first semester of our program, we studied the work of Linda-Darling Hammond in A Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. I was reminded by the author that inequitable situations and experiences before students ever set foot into a Kindergarten classroom start them off at a disadvantage. I remember finishing the book feeling like it was up to me to find a way to make a difference.
After working with parents, an after school club, and with siblings to help Kindergarteners achieve more, I have found an unexpected desired outcome: joy surrounding the activity of learning outside the classroom. I don’t know how to measure it, but I know it’s there, and I know it’s valuable.
When I began my research project in our first trimester, I was all about quantitative data. I learned how to build pre and posttest data charts, and how to measure the p-value. I wasn’t too interested in collecting qualitative data, because I wanted to prove something quantifiable.
I think something changed for me when I realized how the SITE Model truly applied to the heart of what I was trying to accomplish: the value of learning. If we plant a seed in the relationship between parent and child, the seed will grow. The seed represents the value of learning, and we can plant these seeds in a variety of relationships our students have outside the classroom. We may be able to measure an amount of growth now, but my hope is that the value placed on learning outside of school will carry on for years to come, affecting our students, and students in generations to come. I know it’s a big dream, but why not?
Moving forward next year as a second grade teacher, I want to bring elements of my research to life in my classroom practice, and build on them for years to come. I want to acknowledge and celebrate the value of existing relationships students have, and help them make room for learning together. I want to help parents, colleagues, and administrators to remember, that it is our job to work with families and communities for the good of our students, and for the good of an educated country!