Nicole Alzapiedi, D.C. Reads

My name is Nicole and I am studying International Relations. My community service project is for my International Development gateway course and I am working for D.C. Reads. At my location I have been tutoring second and third grade students specifically. The afternoon normally starts with reading or math homework, and the tutors provide any help they may need. After they have completed their homework we often go outside. This a time for the kids to unwind and hang out with all of us while playing games and running around.

Going into this program I was looking to gain more experience working with underprivileged kids and helping them improve in whatever areas they needed it. I have always loved working with kids, especially in a school setting, and this was an opportunity for me to grow in my ability to help kids that might struggle a bit more. So far, we have done less one-on-one work than I expected, but I really like that I get to help a variety of kids. Some days I get kids that really struggle with their math and we walk through all of the steps, and other days I have kids that just need reassurance they are doing something right. No matter what though, I have come to realize that I am always helping the students in that classroom and I can see that they gain confidence when we tell them that they are doing a good job.

I was surprised initially by the range in performance level that the kids are at. In a classroom with kids that are within about two years of one another, there is a great variance in what these kids understand when it comes to schoolwork. I went to public school in a middle class town in Massachusetts that did a really good job of keeping kids on track to graduation and helping those who needed it with one-on-one time. Working at this school in Washington D.C. has certainly opened my eyes to the wide range in public schools that can be found around the country. This has only strengthened my passion towards improving education in the United States and around the world because children are clearly being left behind.

I am pairing this program with my International Development gateway and although we have not talked a lot about education development yet, I can see some connections based on what we have learned. We watched a documentary in class that focused on Ladakh, India, which is a community that has been greatly affected by the Development Project. This includes their education system and the fact that the United States enforced its westernized education system on this community. This was an interesting connection to D.C. Reads because I am seeing firsthand how the U.S. education system isn’t even close to helping all of its own students and yet it’s imposing the same system on completely different cultures. The United States needs to work on improving its own education system rather than trying to change other countries.

My biggest takeaway so far is that every student in a classroom is different, and as such we need to treat them that way. Showing a struggling child that you are willing to work with them and that you want them to succeed can make a world of difference. I have learned a lot about teaching kids and working through problems with them and I hope to be able to use that in my career.

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