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Nov 18, 2014
El Centro Week 8

11/18/14 Today went a little less smoothly than usual. Juan was causing some issues. For some reason, he has a problem with his tutor, Brian, and to avoid sitting next to him he tried taking Evelyn’s seat next to me. The two physically fought over the seat, despite Evelyn and another boy at a different table telling Juan that he had to stay with his tutor (the kids seem to be well aware of the rules of the program). Juan declared that he hated his tutor and he wished Evelyn didn’t exist. He refused to sit beside his tutor, taking a seat next to me and edging it as close to me and as far from Brian as possible. Then, he and Brian proceeded to argue over where Juan should be sitting (he was periodically leaving our table to visit other kids and their tutors, or doing his homework on the floor). I couldn’t understand Juan’s mean-spirited remarks. Brian and Evelyn didn’t seem to take them to heart, but I was mostly worried about Evelyn’s self-esteem; I don’t think a young girl should be hearing from her fellow male classmates that she shouldn’t exist. I only weakly told Juan that he shouldn’t say that, but after mulling it over, I’m determined that in the future I will scold Juan for any mean remarks he directs towards Evelyn. I know she is very sweet and generally well behaved, and I don’t think her kind demeanor should be worn away because Juan might see her as an easy target. However, despite all this I can tell Juan is still a nice boy, or at least I hope he is. One of the leaders of the program eventually came over and took some charge over Juan’s behavior, and Juan eventually settled down; he and Evelyn and another boy even played Chutes and Ladders, and Juan joked around and whispered to Evelyn something about his “secret crush,” so there didn’t seem to be any bad feelings between the two. I’m curious about Juan and why he acts out in the way he does, and what he has against Brian; perhaps he just works better with female tutors, I’m really not sure. I have to say I’m a bit relieved he’s not my responsibility because when he’s not being cute he’s quite a handful. I don’t mind helping out Brian a little bit when I can, but it’s another thing to try to control him on my own. Luckily, Evelyn follows the rues of the program (though, of course like the rest of the kids, she tries to cut some corners here and there), and I consider myself lucky to be her tutor.

Posted at 05:27 pm by Ali Lauro
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El Centro Week 7

11/11/14 Today in El Centro was uneventful. It was a fairly lazy day; we didn’t do any reading. I worked with Evelyn on her homework and then she made a picture for her sister’s 21st birthday tomorrow. There were word problems with a map attached, and I’m not sure if Evelyn was struggling with the homework or just didn’t want to do the work. I think because of her trouble with reading, she doesn’t really feel like trying. The assignment was to measure various distances on the map and answer the questions, but she asked me a few times what the answers were, or would make seemingly random guesses. The struggle I have is how to explain a problem and convey how she can find the answer, without actually telling her the answer; it’s especially difficult when she is fairly unwilling to put any effort into understanding the question. Afterwards, there was an assignment the teachers laid out that consisted of a reading and answering questions, but Evelyn barely looked at it before she tossed it aside. I didn’t press her because Juan wasn’t doing his work either, he was working on writing a picture book and making a hat for thanksgiving. Evelyn got supplies and drew her sister a card for her birthday, and I drew with her for a little bit before playing a game afterwards. I enjoy watching her enjoy herself, when she’s just being a kid drawing or laughing with Juan; I’d rather let her use her creativity than pressure her into finishing boring reading assignments. If there were a way to make improving reading skills more fun, that would be the best of both worlds.

Posted at 05:27 pm by Ali Lauro
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El Centro Week 6

11/4/14 Today at El Centro was a little easier simply because I was less tired than usual, and more energized to work with Evelyn. Juan was energized as well, though, and caused some trouble. He was avoiding his work and taking Evelyn’s things and hiding them. He’d grab her pencil and run away, then when she’d get up to go find it, he’d take something else of hers. Once he tired of that and Evelyn started her homework, he sat on the floor instead of at the table to do his work, and kept going over to another table where there was a group of third grade boys. Luckily, Juan is another tutor’s responsibility, so I could focus on Evelyn. It troubles me that Evelyn seems to be behind on her reading skills. We read another second grade level book and I’d say at least 20% of the words she can’t pronounce; we alternate pages, so that speeds up the reading a bit, but even so, we never get through a whole book by the time it’s 4:00 and Evelyn wants to play a game. I don’t want to begrudge her of that, since, I have to admit, reading with her is slow and tedious and I know she’s not enjoying it. I figure she’s probably practicing a little bit most days of the week, so she has to improve eventually. She seems to be better at math, so maybe that’s her strong suit. Overall, I get a lot of entertainment from Juan and Evelyn and how they interact. Even though Juan can be a bit of a troublemaker, he’s very cute most of the time, and the arguments they have over board games are funny to me. They played shoots and ladders and argued over who was cheating and who should go first and it was trivial but funny; they argued with a passion and fervor I hope they will use in the future, when they become young adults, towards issues that do matter. For the time being, I always find myself laughing at their behavior and interactions, even if they don’t always see the humor in it.

Posted at 05:26 pm by Ali Lauro
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El Centro Week 5

10/28/14 El Centro went well today. Evelyn finished her homework quickly (as usual) and we read an Amelia Bedelia book. She had a more difficult chapter book in her backpack but didn’t seem to want to read it, so we tried Amelia Bedelia. However, as the weeks past, I’m noticing that Evelyn has some difficulty reading. The book was second-grade level reading (according to its cover), yet many of the words Evelyn stumbled over or ignored all together. I help her with some of them, but she seems to get discouraged whenever we do read. She’ll stop reading after a page or two, distracted by something else going on in the cafeteria, or she’ll skip five or ten pages to get closer to the end of the book. I’m never sure how to handle this situation, because I don’t want to make reading into a punishment that she dreads, but I do think the more she practices the better she’ll get. At one point, Juan off-handedly said, “you have to read the whole thing, otherwise you’ll never be smart.” Although this was only a murmured aside from him, and Evelyn didn’t even respond to him, it seemed to somehow compel her to keep with the reading. She decided not to skip the pages she was trying to convince me we should, and we ended up reading a good amount of the book. It’s hard watching Evelyn struggle over the same words, and I really don’t know how to help her improve, other than whispering then sounding out the words she’s having particular difficulty with and answering her questions when she asks them. I enjoy it when we get sidetracked sometimes, and start talking about Halloween or ice cream or her older sister, who she really seems to admire. It’s frustrating to think I have no power to help her improve her reading skills, but I think as long as I talk to her, treat her well, and keep her (somewhat) on task, that maybe that’s the best I can do, and that that’s something.

Posted at 05:26 pm by Ali Lauro
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Nov 16, 2014
Casa de Cultura - October 13th, 2014

While I usually try to reflect more on the shared experiences I have between myself and a Casa student, tonight's lesson taught me more about myself. This past Thursday I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Katrina, one of the warmest students I've met at Casa, to help organize and outline her paper. Although very sweet, based on the way she and I take notes, we have two very different personality types. I am a proud INTJ and I take a lot of pride in my organizational skills as well as put in a lot of effort into making sure certain things in my life are done with efficiency and precision. Tonight's lesson was taught by some education class, I think. They had pre-prepared lessons for the Casa students and even their instructor stopped by for a little bit to see how the lessons were going. Everyone came to Casa that night with a whopping 6 students and one student I had never seen before! Casa was the place to be. The lessons went over everything from identifying missing lyrics in 'We are the World' to brushing up on new vocabulary through current events. I felt bad to purposely skip their lessons, but Katrina's paper was of the utmost importance considering it was due on Tuesday. As she pulled out her outline on her informative essay, her topic was beyond interesting: Teen Pregnancy. 'Yikes' I thought in my head as I made conscience efforts to control my liberal opinions about birth control and sex education. Katrina wanted to write about the tolling effects of teen pregnancy on both the parents and children but did not know how to narrow down her topic. She had seen the librarian for help and came in with a small stack of journal articles and fact sheets about the less positive statistics young parents face. While the librarian helped her narrow it down to contraceptive use and upbringing of children by young parents, it was still hard for Katrina to get her point across. While she searched for understandable but direct words to get her point across, I sat across the table with pencil and paper in hand, amazingly confused. 'Contraceptives' quickly turned into 'Use of Condoms' while 'Upbringing' quickly turned into 'Social pressures of parents.' Her unorganized outline drove me crazy as I ripped out a piece of paper to make a completely new one, based off of the rubric given by her teacher. 'Oh my God....' I repeated over and over again in my head. I could not comprehend how certain personality types functioned the way that they did. As Katrina and I worked through the new outline, things went uphill really fast then plummeted down to her asking me if I was going to leave soon. 'Ouch.' I thought as I packed up my things, watching her call over another tutor who she had developed a stronger bond to. Walking down the stairs, I realized how not personable of a person I am. I am overly controlling, demanding, arrogant, and unnecessarily blunt at times. I wanted her to have the best outline and paper ever, but telling her how to do it instead of letting her do it on her own did not let her to her own imagination. It suppressed her feelings and thoughts, a horrible feeling that I am also familiar with. My 'help' to Katrina was not help at all but rather a dictator like assumption that my way was the best way. Katrina's kindness helped me realize that there's multiple ways of doing things and all ways can be 'right.' A single answer isn't needed to write something as creative as an essay, this isn't math.

Posted at 03:54 pm by Andeulazia
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Nov 14, 2014
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Posted at 06:10 pm by Nene Sy
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Soup Kitchen Week 3

We were greeted by a very warm welcome by the ladies today. They all asked us what we had done in Washington D.C and had even taken the article from the newspaper and had taped it to the wall. It was a really nice atmosphere, as we felt that we had already been accepted by the other volunteers, who have mostly been volunteering there for a while. KJ and I put our heads together and worked out a system to improve our serving from the past two weeks. It had become confusing serving random people without a systematic approach in the past, so we figured out a system that we had designated tables so that we wouldn't end up doing the same job as each other. We had some small talk among the guests today, and talked to Bryan. Bryan was a really interesting man to meet, because when he talks he sounds extremely educated and everything he says sounds very thought out. I'm interested to learn more about his life, and history.

Posted at 05:35 pm by Morvenwhalley
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Soup Kitchen Week 1 and 2

The soup kitchen was a lot more intimate than KJ and I had originally expected to it. There was only 4 long tables, that seated approximately 40 people. All the ladies volunteers were very kind, and seemed to be really committed to their volunteering. The ladies had a system for the kitchen, were two people served, two people were servers, one dishwasher, and one person to hand out bread and take around the basket of goods that people can take from. The people in the soup kitchen were extremely nice and we got talking to a couple of them towards the end of lunch. I got talking to one man about school, and he was asking KJ and I where we went to school and what we were studying. When I told him that I was planning on majoring in psychology, he said that he had also majored in psychology. There were also several other people there that talked about their college educations. I found this to be a really eye opening experience, to discover that so many of them had college educations. Although, we learn about different aspects of homelessness, it was great to be able to meet some people and be able to talk to them and hear a little bit about their backgrounds. Another older gentleman, Ray, was talking about how he had been in Gettysburg for many years. He talked about how Gettysburg has become a ghost town, with no jobs, so everyone has to leave the town to be able to make survival for themselves. It was a great first two weeks at the soup kitchen and the ladies are lovely, I can't wait to go back!

Posted at 05:26 pm by Morvenwhalley
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week 5

I had a very nice conversation with 3 ladies, Phil, Catherine and another woman whose name I can not remember- it was my first time seeing her there. I found out about this woman’s struggle with her ex-husband. They are divorced but they live in the same complex so they often see each other and he is not very nice to her. Nolan and I served lunch again.

Posted at 01:15 pm by emilypatro
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week 4

This week was very similar to our other visits. I talked to Catherine about her week and how her family and cat are doing. Nolan and I helped serve the lunch and continued to chat with the ladies.

Posted at 01:09 pm by emilypatro
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