Killilea, Alfred [faculty advisor, Department of Political Science]
teaching, language, culture
During the 2008-2009 school year I volunteered through the Mentor/Tutor Internship program at the East Bay Met School in Newport, RI. I formed solid relationships with many of the students and the staff and discovered unexpectedly how much I enjoyed being in a school setting. In the fall of 2009 I obtained permission from the principal and the advisors to experiment with a syllabus I created for my Senior Honors Project- a 10 week course on Hispanic language and culture called Exposure. In late September I found myself playing the part of teacher in front of a group of 12 high school students who knew me previously as a friend. I had challenged them to participate in what I thought was a demanding course- my expectations were high and I expected to stick to a planned schedule. My group of 12 dwindled to a group of about 6, and by the 4th or 5th class the syllabus had become a mere guideline to our weekly meetings. Initially I maintained that whoever did not complete their assigned work more than once would not be welcome in the class, but if I kept that attitude up, I would have had no students. I constantly adapted and readapted each meeting to deal with the fact that everyone was always in a different place. I wrote midterm and final evaluations for the students which contained much constructive criticism. Their teachers wanted to know if they could all receive credit for taking the course, and while I felt that we had accomplished a great deal, academically it was not very successful so I decided not to give any of the students credit. There was academic disappointment, but there was also a great deal of success. I found that in the classroom and in general, when you give your full attention to people you will receive theirs in return. When classes that were supposed to be about current events in other countries turned into hour-long poetry sessions about our personal lives it was not as if the learning stopped. The students and I shared our thoughts and our writings and achieved the give and take that I had hoped for when I first formulated the idea for the class. After the ten weeks were over, the students asked to continue meeting until Christmas time. Though sometimes all we did was sit and talk, we learned a lot from each other. What we needed was more time; we needed to see each other more than once a week to keep the momentum going. I learned that expectations are fine, so long as we never expect things to be as we expected. Getting involved in the public education system is going to be a challenging task because it is in a state of great change and turmoil, but this experience has only confirmed my desire to do so.