How I encourage inspiration for lifelong learning

By: Annie Gladden, Brunson Elementary and Diggs-Latham Elementary

Coming from a household where both parents boast college and graduate degrees, I had taken my thirst for knowledge for granted, and assumed that everyone could easily quench their thirst. I also assumed that the role of teachers is to face students with academic exercises that arm students with the skills to break down and manipulate information across subject disciplines for any purpose. 

However, my experience with my students at both Brunson Elementary and Diggs-Latham Elementary has helped me realize the importance of inspiration when cultivating life-long learners. I have realized the role of the teacher is to glorify the learning process to instill the drive to pursue knowledge in students. This is because, while a student’s natural abilities may ease or complicate the learning process, it is the additional effort that dictates one’s successes. The new found empathy I have synthesized by realizing my actual duty has given me a pivotal tool towards cultivating my skills as a teacher and communicator.

My goals for the upcoming semester include connecting to as many student possible, beyond a mere willingness to follow instructions. People of all ages, from an orchestra comprised primarily of college students to a choir comprised of senior citizens, can occasionally be anxious and in need of constant reminders to focus when disengaged from a topic at hand. Because of this, I want to earn the admiration of my students so they will be motivated to grasp the common core material on their own, and not driven out of fear of being punished by their main teachers. This motivation is what will drive my students to pursue a deeper investigation of any subject area.

My game-plan I will be implementing from this point forward includes becoming well versed in the choreographical, theatrical and visual arts equivalents of the musical artistry I had worked on during my time at UNCSA, so I can become a more effective arts integrator. I do not know if my goals of attaining such comfort level are naive considering the duration of my remaining service term; however, I would like to try.

My experience as an ArtistCorps Service Teacher has thus far been enlightening and occasionally stressful, but generally fulfilling. My main site, Brunson Elementary, is where I work with non-native Hispanic students who are trying to learn English. Coming from a bi-lingual house-hold with an African-American father and a Colombian mother, I often take my ease in comprehension across languages for granted. This, in conjunction with losing touch with my learning struggles as a native English speaking kindergartner, contributed to my initial shock at the beginning of the semester.

Near the beginning of the school year, when teaching the components of a story to Kindergarten, my team and I integrated dance and drama into a story unit on “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” One challenge the students faced pertained to their underdeveloped colloquial vocabulary, which includes terms such as “lumpy” and “squishy.” We overcame this by incorporating visual and tangible representations of each term. We also, introduced a theatrical aspect by leading a narrative pantomime during which our students acted out the actions of the featured characters. I was overjoyed when, the class session ended with high-pitched giggles and squeals of joy; a new favorite sound of mine. 

Although my experiences as an ArtistCorps Service Teacher are not always this exciting and can be emotionally taxing at times, it is days like these, when my students are having so much fun learning that they seem to forget they are actually in a classroom that motivate me to keep growing as a teacher and communicator.

February 18, 2016