Written by Hannah Evans, AmeriCorps Member serving on the Entergy Louisiana Team at Broadmoor Middle School
As an AmeriCorps member placed in a classroom, we each receive a “focus list”, a list of about 12 students that we are to work closely with, monitoring progress with, and mentor for the entire school year. Although we are still responsible for supporting the whole class, it’s the pull-out and push-in sessions with our focus list students that really creates that genuine City Year-student dynamic. Personalized learning styles have been in the forefront of my mind since I first discovered I would be working in an academic setting. My own learning style was determined when I was around middle school age, so then learning I would be placed in a 7th grade math classroom meant it would be a topic I would get to discuss with my students.
Grasping the concept of my own learning style changed my life as a student. I finally understood that it wasn’t that I couldn’t master that certain skill, but rather that I should be approaching the problem in a different way. So, what does this mean for my students? It means that every day, my students will understand that anything can be achieved when their approach is unique to how they learn, and that despite their past discouragement, they are more than smart enough to do this. It means that a big part of my job will include pushing my students every single day until they reach that “aha” moment, no matter how many different paths we have to try out. City Year never gives up on their kids.
The four main learning styles have long been defined as visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile, with more and more being considered every day. These styles have proved successful for most of my students, while others require a customized combination of a few. No student is created equal, and no student responds to the same lesson in the same way so for each and every student to be taught in the same manner seems impractical. To top it off, math, the subject most guilty of rigid and unwavering teaching techniques, is the very one I’ve been assigned to get creative with!
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with students in such a manner and frequency that allows me to understand what kind of activities work for whom, and which ones just plainly confuse them. I like to ask my students, “Well, what part of this is confusing?”, or “What part of this is skill is the most frustrating to you? Why?” The best thing ever is when I finally hear, “Ohhhhh…I get it now, Miss Hannah! I wish we’d been always doing it this way!” From the use of algebra tiles for my tactile learners, to the auditory repetition of “When I divide fractions, I KEEP, CHANGE, FLIP”, I’ve had so much fun finding new ways mathematical skills can be practiced. Although it’s trying at times, discovering my students’ little quirks and ways of understanding has been one of, if not my favorite aspect of working for City Year.