* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Summer Soon Come: An Update

The colors and textures of my classroom
The colors and textures of my classroom

The photos above come from my little room at the school where I do pull-out groups and one-on-one sessions for struggling readers. On especially chaotic days, this place becomes my haven. Can you tell what each photo is? (I’ll post the answers in the comments section of this post.)

What’s Happening
The Jamaican school year continues through the first week of July. I’m currently wrapping up my last full week of classes as we will be attended our Mid-Service Conference all next week and then graduation is the Tuesday after we get back. The Mid-Service Conference (MSC) is the second of three Peace Corps conferences, strategically placed around the one-year-of-service mark. We gather with the other volunteers from our original training group and also bring a Jamaican counterpart for the first three days. We’re both really looking forward to it. Once summer break hits, we’ll be involved in some summer camps, both at my school and at the community center where Jedd volunteers; then we’ll get to take our first, big two-week leave! This summer is going to fly by.

Progress Reports
At school, I’ve done some end-of-year testing to see how the kids have progressed. I started with grade three and was sort of underwhelmed at first. There were 13 third graders that I worked with at least 20 times in the past school year (some up to 38 times each, a combination of group and one-on-one sessions). Everyone improved in one way or another, but none of them are all the way up to their grade level yet. Two of them are close. When I got to the fourth graders, I was surprised to see that many of them had advanced by two whole grade levels. I thought about how these kids had been stuck at a kindergarten level for the past three years, many of them not knowing what sound the letters make, not recognizing the most common two-letter words. With just a little more individualized attention, they finally started to move ahead! It feels really good to see that tangible improvement. I have a feeling the effect is even more significant with my grade one and two students. Next year, I plan to narrow down my classes so I can invest more time into each student and hopefully push them even further.


5 thoughts on “Summer Soon Come: An Update”

  1. It sounds like you are a natural teacher. Hope you enjoy your re-creational vacation as all teachers do. When does school begin again in Jamaica?

    1. Vicki, thanks! Ironically I feel confirmation to not be a teacher. Tutoring I can do, but not classroom management. 🙂 School begins again the first Monday of September (Jamaicans celebrate a different Labor Day).

  2. Great work, Michelle! Your individualized attention is obviously making a difference. We saw the same thing in our school–kids guessing at very simple words and barely knowing how to read by 6th grade. Only wish there were more emphasis higher up on the “food chain” teaching the teachers how to teach.

    1. Yes. A lot of students are missing the basic building blocks. Even the ones that can read great have often done it through memorization rather than phonics.

  3. The photos are (from top to bottom, left to right):
    Row one: fan, countertop with curtain made from plaid preschool uniform material, composition notebook, dusty reading books
    Row two: set of reading books, teacher’s desk, back of student chair, window slats with protective grill
    Row three: wall with cement chipping off, trash bin with students’ lunches, corrugated skylight, vowel chart
    Row four: map of the world, grill over the window, old scrabble tiles used for bingo inside a plastic bag, “Mathematics” sign pinned to the shelf

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