Thursday, June 19, 2014

Exploring Social Justice inside an Easter Seals Classroom

For my Social Justice Project I have decided to volunteer for 15 hours at Easter Seals.  The Easter Seals Center I will be volunteering at is directed by *Ms. Carr.  I went in yesterday for my volunteer orientation.  It was very informative.  I signed all the paperwork and gave her my test results for the TB test that is required to volunteer there.  I have to use other names than then children’s real names to keep their information confidential.  She shared with me some basic guidelines and rules to follow.  She also gave me a quick tour of the center.  I honestly felt well prepared to begin my volunteer work after my orientation and tour.  The director repeatedly went over the dress policy for business casual.  I have many years of experience in the early childhood educational setting.  I shared with her that I would like to work with students who are disabled and in the lower SES. So we agreed on the Preschool classroom, where there are children ages 4 – 5, the students are a mixed group of disabled and able bodies, some with developmental delays and others with none.  While we were talking in her office I fully expected the classrooms to be well stocked with manipulatives, markers, paint, a preschool teacher’s dream to be honest.  
But what I found was well loved room but not the resources I expected.  The bulletin boards were made with hand cut letters, dust lined the shelves.  As an experienced teacher I wondered how this could be with so many adults in the room.  I can’t remember the last time I had to hand cut letters out, but this told me they didn’t have funding for extras like this, unlike what I thought.  There were five adults in the room with 12 children when I did the tour.  I left thinking my first experience would be positive and refreshing. 
There are additional classrooms that most early childhood centers don’t have, like the speech class, and occupational therapy class.  The teachers all have their Birth – Kindergarten Certification Bachelor of Arts.  The assistance have their associate’s degree and some have their B-K Certification BA as well.  The teacher’s appear to function well as a team.  The students appear to be well taken care of and engaged.  The room is divided into learning areas.  There is a bathroom close to the classroom for students to use and a door to the outside for relatively easy access to the outside.  It seemed the teachers were not all busy when I came by for the tour.  It looked like there were more teachers than necessary in the classroom.  My first impression is that there are more adults in there than necessary.  However the volunteers do not count towards the ratio of the students in the room so I understand that is why there are extra adults.  I wish I had had volunteers in my room to assist with the twenty four students and only one assistant.  It appears there are more hands than needed in this room with only 6 students that are either delayed or has physical limitations.  This experience makes me wonder why we don’t have more volunteers in a regular classroom.  It just doesn’t seem fair that people would want to volunteer or are encouraged to volunteer with children with delays and not with children that do not experience delays.  All children need love and attention and teachers can all use extra help and support.  It doesn’t seem like these teacher know much more than I do from my first interactions with them.  I know that I am not allowed to take children to the bathroom, feed them or be alone with them.  I understand the reasoning because they do not know my abilities and cannot let everyone that volunteers have all the responsibilities since they won’t be there full time, however I do feel like I could handle teaching the children.  Right now it seems like they get way lower ratios than I experienced.  The ratio in the room is 1:6.  My ratio was 1:15.  Honestly the ratio seems a bit unnecessary.   I do realize all I did was tour the school quickly.  I will be interested to see how I feel about it after I am in the classroom with the children.  Without really talking to the teachers and just having a glance at the room it looks like 4 students have serious delays and fit into a marginalized population and that the rest do not. 

     After my first visit I thought in the classroom I decided to go back and write my first journal on my preconceived notions about the volunteering.  I think it is important to look at my own growth.  I sat down with the director to find a time that is most beneficially for my reflections and the classroom to spend my time in the room.  There is another student that will be in the room on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings so I am choosing Tuesday and Thursday mornings to complete my hours over five different sessions to total 15 hours.  * It turned out my hours had to be completed much faster due to the class restrictions and deadlines for my school.

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