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For this project, I became a part of the innovative Write Suff program at CMLA. The program connects MCLA volunteer mentors with 5th to 7th graders that come from the three local elementary schools in North Adams. The Elementary students come to the MCLA campus and participate in an activity or session and then write an assignment on what they did or learned. It was a great opportunity for the kids to be involved outside of their elementary school and learn how to write at the same time. I chose to become a part of Write Stuff for my project because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to be around children and be able to analyze their behavior during activities but also be able to actually teach them something new in the process and in this case I was teaching them how to write. While going into this experience, I was wondering if I would actually learn enough from the kids to be able to write this paper on it. But, looking at it now I can see that there are plenty of things you can learn by just observing and analyzing the simple things that children say and do.
While interacting with an eleven year old at The Write Stuff something I learned about and found interesting was the effect of nurture on a child’s day to day life. I was talking to one little boy about what school he went to and if he liked his school. The boy told me exactly what school he went to and he said that he liked it because he really liked all of his friends. He then went to tell me about where he lived, giving me his exact address, what his house looked like, and his phone number. The boy even went as far to invite me over for dinner because his mom loved meeting all of his friends. When I talked to another girl who was about the same age later on, I asked her the same question. After she answered I asked her if her parents talked to her about giving out personal information to strangers and she told me that he parents had specifically told her to keep personally information to herself. When she told me this, I went back to the little boy because I was curious. I asked him if his parents had told him not to give out information and he simply said, “No.” When normal events like this happen I usually do not think too much into it because it really doesn’t matter that much, but since I am on an assignment and was looking out for things like this to occur, it caught my eye. In situations like this, you can see that nurture has an effect on a child’s day to day life. By definition, nurture is the care for and encouragement of growth and development. The way you are raised by your parents is represented by your actions and represented in things you do everyday. We as humans are a product of our environment around us so if we were raised by different parents or in a different area then we would be completely different people than we are now. I saw an example of this while I was talking to these two fifth graders. One boys parents did not make it a point to tell him to keep his personal information private, so he went right ahead and gave me all of it. Who knows who else this little boy could have told this information. He thought it was innocent but that is actually a serious problem because we would not want that boy giving that information to the wrong person. This boy’s parents made their son feel like he was safe around everyone and that is why he told me his information. The girl on the other hand was told by her parents that she should not share information because it could get into the wrong persons hands. She knew that something bad could happen if she gave the information out so she kept it to herself. Although these two children are the same age and are both in the fifth grade, they have two different opinions on the same topic. This is because their level of nurture was different. We can assume that the boys parents were more permissive parents and did not think about this while the girls parents were more authoritative and made sure their daughter knew not to give out personal information. Their levels of nurture had a huge effect on what they thought was right and wrong and on their cognitive development. One child thought that what they were doing was fine because they were never told not to do it while the other knew it was wrong. I found this to be really interesting because it is not something that I would usually notice or sit down and think about. It really points out the effect that your level of nurture can have on your entire life. This is just one small aspect of a childs life out of a million different aspects so who knows what other differences like this we can find. I also wonder about the future for these kids; will the girl grow up to be more protective of her life than the boy because she was told not to give out information because something bad may happen because of it? For me, talking with his little boy confirmed what we were talking about in class. We always talk about how the way you are raised and the environment we grow up in shapes who we are as a person and shapes our actions. The experience I had with this little boy sharing his personal information just proved to me that we are a product of the environment we grow up in and that nurture has a huge effect on how we act and what we say.
Another thing that I learned about it how successful the process of scaffolding is overall. Just like a scaffold in the normal world is a temporary structure used to support workers on the side of a building, scaffolding in psychology is a process of teaching that involves providing resources and support to students as they learn new concepts. As the students develop skills in those areas, the supports are gradually removed so the student can accomplish a task with no assistance. In class we talked about scaffolding and I took in what we learned but I did not completely believe that this was a successful way of teaching a child about particular subjects just because I feel like it is time consuming and is not the most efficient way to help someone. While working with one of the children at Write Stuff, I was shown that scaffolding is a successful way of teaching. One of the children that I was helping write was having trouble writing down everything that he had done throughout his day in the write order. He was supposed to start at the moment he woke up to the time that he was next to me writing down what he did. Since he was struggling, I decided to try and use the scaffolding method to help him out. I started by just asking him what the first thing he did every morning was, I didn’t want to give him the answer but I wanted to guide him. He said that he woke up. I asked him what the next thing he did was and he said he got out of bed. When I asked him the next thing he did, he couldn’t remember. He just remembered that he ate breakfast and went to school. I told the little boy that there are steps in between that he is missing and he still couldnt think about anything he was missing. I pointed at his shirt and asked him when he put that on, and he instantly remembered several steps that he forgot to write down. As he kept going writing this list, I gave him less and less help and eventually he was able to do it all on his own. This was the process of scaffolding, and it showed me that my preconceptions about scaffolding were incorrect. I thought that scaffolding was not the best way to teach because it was time consuming but it only took me a few minutes to use scaffolding to teach this little boy how to write a list of the things he did throughout his day without missing steps. After actually participating and witnessing scaffolding firsthand, I believe that is is a very accurate way to teach a child about a specific subject or concept. I think that gradually removing the support from a child is a great way to get the child to learn to work on their own and learn how to be more independent. This is very important for children in 5th to 7th grade because they rely heavily on their parents and friends. When I used scaffolding to teach this boy how to write about his day, he learned in an effective, quick manner and that was an amazing thing to witness firsthand after being skeptical. I learned a lot from this experience. Even though we talked about scaffolding for a good amount of time in class it is always more effective to learn about things when you are actually taking part in them. I feel like I use scaffolding a lot in my day to day life when I am helping people and when I’ve helped people in the past as well, I just never noticed that I was using it before now.
One last thing that I learned from volunteering for the Write Stuff program is not one from a specific interaction with a child, but it is what I learned from the different types of teaching strategies that I observed. A few of the times that I went to the program, i simply observed how the mentors interacted with their mentees. There are different teaching styles that include permissive, uninvolved, authoritarian, and authoritative. While I observed these different teaching styles, I saw the effect it had on the child’s interest in the program and on their learning overall. The teaching style that I saw the most was the authoritative style. The Authoritative style includes high expectations and standards for behavior, consistent enforcement of rules, and the inclusion of children in decision making. For me, this is the most effective teaching style so I am glad to say that I saw this one the most. A lot of the mentors were strict with the children in that they needed to follow the rules and do the writing assignments, but they also were nice to the children and gave them the decision of what they wanted to write and guided them through the process. They also went through the guided activities with the mentees and had a lot of fun with them. The next teaching style that I saw present was the permissive style. The permissive style is characterized by emotional warmth but few expectations or standards for children’s behavior. There was one or two mentors that seemed like they only volunteered because they had too. They were really nice to the children and let them do basically whatever they wanted. They did not enforce the rules that they were supposed to and this affected the children’s learning overall. The mentors that were permissive to their mentee’s did not form a relationship with each other whereas the mentors that used the authoritative style did. There are two other teaching styles but I did not see them present, they are the authoritarian and uninvolved styles. Authoritarian refers to the parenting style in which there are strict expectations for behavior and rigid rules that children are required to obey without question. The uninvolved style is characterized as having a lack of emotional support and a lack of standards regarding appropriate behavior. Although I did not see them firsthand, I can predict how the children would have been affected by these teaching styles. If it was an authoritarian style, the children would not have learned anything because they would not even want to be a part of the program because there mentor would have been too harsh and uptight whereas this program was designed to be a fun getaway for children. If it was uninvolved, the mentee would not have gained anything because they would not have learned anything or formed a bond with their mentor simply because there mentor did not care. I think that when it comes to learning it is important to know what the best teaching style would be for your specific group of kids. You need to know this so that the kids can get the most out of the experience. For this program, it is important to be strict to keep the kids on track, but the kids also need to be involved in the decision making because we want them to benefit from the experience which is why the Authoritative teaching style would be the best. I learned a lot from observing these teaching styles firsthand and analyzing them. In class we discussed these different teaching styles, and I found it weird to actually see them in the act and thought it was interesting to determine which one I believed was the most successful overall.
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