Monday, August 15, 2011

The Hi-5 Experience

On June 29 of this year, I began my first job.  Yep.  My very first formal job (formal meaning it wasn't my neighbors that hired me out for a few hours).  I had applied to the program known as the STEP-UP Summer Jobs Program.  Some will be familiar, others will not be.  But any way, it's great!  They help to place you with a job that you like, based on the requests you've given them.  I've applied three times, have been accepted twice, and gotten a job once.  The key is to make your requests as general as possible, given the state of affairs with the working world.


I was given the opportunity to work in a Hi-5 classroom in a school that's really close to where I live.  Apparently I was recommended for the Hi-5 program as a helper.  I'm not quite sure how that worked out, considering I wasn't supposed to give STEP-UP any references that I already had on my resume.  Unless I put them on my application... that's beside the point.

I had done some babysitting in the past, but I had never actually had the chance to actually get to teach.  It was kind of cool being responsible for molding young minds.

I remember, the first day was really confusing.  Not just for me, but for the teachers that worked there and for the kids that were coming in for summer school.  There was confusion as to where we were supposed to be, who was supposed to be where, and at what time.

After the first few days, everything got a little bit easier.  In the morning, I waited in the lunchroom and herded my kids (I've taken to affectionately calling them "my kids."  Sorry if that seems strange) to one table and opening up all of their food, pouring milk on cereal, spreading cream cheese on bagels (I secretly hated that.  I hoped that everyone would get cereal every day.  Do you know how hard it is to spread cream cheese with a flimsy plastic spork?  It should be an art form...), and then picking up garbage and uneaten food and putting them in the proper bins.  Red for plastic, green for organics, and then separate tubs for unused liquids.

When everything regarding breakfast was done, it was time to line up and go to specialist classes.  On Monday, they had music, Tuesday there was gym, Wednesday Media, and Thursday Art.  Personally, I enjoyed Media and Art best.  I think the little kids enjoyed gym the most.  They have so much pent up energy!  It's ridiculous!

When specialist class was done, we'd go back to the classroom, the Hi-5ers would practice writing their names, and then it was time to read books and go to the group area.  The group area was where they would practice the days of the week, months of the year, numbers, and patterns, all using the calendar.  They'd read one book for the whole week, so they read six assigned books (plus some that were just for fun) having to deal with the theme that week (it was always one habitat for animals that made up the theme).  After that was Centers.  It was a circuit.  There would be four or five centers total where the little kids could play with math tubs, practice putting the letters of the alphabet in order, play a shape or bingo game with me, practice the sounds the letters make, etc.  We'd do this until lunch time.

Lunch time was, for a while, not my favorite time of the day.  The main teacher, Ms. AZ, and I ate lunch with the Hi-5ers, unlike the kindergarten, first, second, and third grade classes.  The teachers dropped them off and left.  There were only two or three teachers in the entire lunch room to hold down the fort.  I feel so bad for them.  Those other kids were so wild and crazy and that wild and craziness was contagious for my kids.  They couldn't walk in a proper line after lunch was over.  Lunch time made me realize how lucky I was that I was placed with a Hi-5 class.

After lunch, we'd finish the centers and then went outside for recess (mostly so the Hi-5ers wouldn't have to compete with the older kids on the playground).  This was when Ms. AZ has her duty-free break, so that means I stay outside with the minis and make sure they don't spontaneously combust or something

On the playground, I'm awesome (that's called modesty, right there).  I give underdog swing-pushes like nobody's business.  My pushes made the swings a relatively popular place to play when a game of "Monster" wasn't being played.

After recess, everyone would make a line (a very spaced-out line.  There's so much to take in when one is walking that sometimes there is a ten or twenty foot gap between the straggler and the person in front of him/her) and they would go inside for nap time.  My break-time started right after everyone was settled in for rest time.  I finished a decent amount of books during those breaks collectively.

After naps, there was free choice until it was time to talk out to the buses.

During those six seeks, I learned so much.  Not just Spanish words/phrases like, "En la fila," "pequito," and anything many of the Spanish-speaking boys and girls would tell me, but social things as well.  Like getting a painfully shy boy to get off the bench and go and play with the other boys and girls, cleaning up a little girl that fell off some equipment and landed face-first in the sand, and explaining something to younger kids no matter what their dominant language was.

Do you want to know something really cool that happened?  Okay.  One day, Ms. AZ took the day off for her daughter's birthday, so it was just me and a substitute teacher that was accustomed to teaching fifth grade and up.  She didn't really know what to do other than what Ms. AZ told her to do in her note, so I helped to move things along.  I led the line wherever it needed to go (to specialist, to the bathroom to wash hands before lunch, outside...), I sang the songs in the morning to get them to learn the days of the week and the months of the year (also patterns).  So while I wasn't the only one in charge, it felt like I was running the show and it was a lot of fun!

I didn't expect to get nearly as much out of this experience.  I thought it was going to be like babysitting with more structure, but that totally wasn't the case.  It was interacting, it was putting yourself out there and not being afraid to look silly, it was creative, because I got to draw all of the coloring sheets, it was business (nothing terribly tricky, but I got to run the copy machine on many occasions).

On the last day, I cried.  When it was time to line up at the door to go home, Ms. AZ told them that she was going to say a letter, and if that was the letter that their name started with, they could go get their back packs and line up.  They each knew what letter their name started with.  I couldn't have been more proud of them!

The best thing about this experience is that Ms. AZ wants me to come back next year and do another six weeks.  What's even better is that I totally can!  It'll be the summer between high school and college, and I might have to give up a trip to New Orleans, but that's okay, because I'll have two other really awesome trips to places I have never been before.  Plus, I've already been to New Orleans.  So I hope to do that next summer before going off to college!

Below, I'm including a slideshow of some of the pictures that I took over my six weeks there.  It's mostly from the beginning and end of my time spent there, but that's okay :)

Thank you very much for reading!


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