By Seamus McGuire, AmeriCorps Member, Alumni Sponsored Team,
Serving at Parker Varney Elementary School
As the school year slowly comes to an end, I find myself becoming more aware of the progress that my students and I have made this year. Sometimes, these moments of enlightenment arrive unexpectedly. The other day in my math focus group one of my students became stuck. To finish the word problem he needed to know the product of 7x7. I could see from the look on his face that he was drawing a blank. He asked for help, and to my surprise one of my other focus list students reminded him that he could figure it out by starting with what he already knew. This is something that I have been preaching to my students all year. I tell them, “If you are stuck or intimidated by the times tables, start with what you know.” In this case he reminded him that he knew his five’s table. The student quickly realized that he knew the product of 7x5 is = 35 from there he added 7 to figure out 7x6=42, and then added another 7 to get 7x7=49. What brought a smile to my face was that one of my students had actually picked up on a method I had been teaching and without my instruction used it to help his fellow classmate! It caused me to step back for a moment and appreciate that my service actually does affect my students.
I often wonder how my students will transition into the fourth grade. At the beginning of the year it seemed like a daunting task to get my focus list students back on track to grade level. One of my biggest concerns is how my students will progress forward without my help. I have already told them that unfortunately, I can’t be their City Year forever. However, my doubts are gradually becoming extinguished when I see how my focus list students have developed into such bold and confident mathematicians. When we first started we were unorganized at times, and were discovering how we learned best. With my help and guidance, my focus list students have learned about process, organization, patience and perseverance. They know how to break a problem down, and that it’s okay to ask for help if they are unsure. Seeing my students help one another without my intervention is reassuring to me that my service has impacted their lives. It makes me hopeful that they will take these skill and processes with them to the fourth grade and continue to build upon what we have learned together.