Service Learning: The Future Teachers Club of Revere

By Nancy Barile on November 1, 2010
  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12

 

Service learning provides students with an opportunity to both teach and learn. It combines community service, instruction, and reflection in order to help teach responsibility, respect, leadership, and values.

 

Last year, I was lucky enough to receive funding from Massachusetts General Hospital Revere CARES to start a service learning club called the Future Teachers Club of Revere (FTC). The main purpose of the club is to assist high school students in exploring teaching as a career choice, although many students joined the club in order to learn responsibility and leadership. Through the club, students get practical experience and a realistic understanding of teaching and learning. The club's mission is twofold:

 

  1. To provide high school students with an opportunity to participate in an educational experience that will allow them to explore the teaching profession in a variety of ways, and to help students develop the leadership and organizational skills found in the best educators.
  2. To provide middle school students with an educational and mentoring experience that will help them to succeed academically and socially at the middle school level and to successfully make the transition from middle school to high school.

As advisor to the club, I wanted the "future teachers" to understand the social and psychological research concerning the field of education. I also hoped that by exploring the foundations of education, students would expand and refine both their teaching and leadership skills. Future teachers would be responsible for all curriculum and instruction in the club, and they would need to respond to all the problems they faced in undertaking this task.

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For the program to succeed, future teachers would need to be familiar with how children learn and develop, and they would be required to create learning experiences that support a child's intellectual, personal, and social development. Future teachers would have to learn how to motivate the middle school students, and they would need to be able to handle any classroom management issues.

It was decided that the future teachers would meet with the middle school students of the Rumney Marsh Academy every Friday for an hour. Afterwards, the future teachers would meet with me to debrief, discuss any issues that came up, and plan curriculum and instruction for the next week. Future teachers were responsible for one hour of "homework" a week, in which they would create lesson plans to be used the following week. For their time, the Revere CARES grant paid the students $8.00 per hour.

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Because we initially had difficulty interesting the middle school students in the program, I appealed to my friend, Kathleen Liakos, a licensed social worker at the RMA, to help me recruit students. As a result, many of the students who attend "The Program" are kids who need it the most: students with behavior problems, special needs, and social issues. It was a great joy for this educator to watch these disenfranchised students take ownership of and become empowered by The Program.

To say The Program was a success is an understatement. The lessons learned by both the middle school students and the high school students were legion! Bonds were formed, mentoring relationships solidified, and friendships blossomed. One large part of The Program focused on music instruction. A call for musical instruments on my Facebook page resulted in donations of new guitars, drums, and keyboards (thank you, Charlie and Paty!). Britney, one of the middle school students participating, became so adept at playing the guitar that she took 2nd place in her school's talent show. She had never touched a guitar before The Program. And her mentor, Josh, was there to support her at the talent show, and she was there to support him when the high school Rock Ensemble performed their spring concert.

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A group of future teachers settled in the RMA's theater area where they acted in plays, played games, learned how to salsa, and talked about issues important to preteens. The future teachers discussed their favorite middle-school books like Blubber, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and The Outsiders. For the middle-schoolers, having the future teachers there as their role models was a powerful experience.

Five girls worked together on what had to be the most difficult paint-by-numbers project I have ever seen. But the students didn't just paint — while they worked, they talked about issues and problems. The middle school students talked to the future teachers about what high school life was like and about issues of self-esteem and belonging. When two of those 8th grade students joined the high school this September, they knew their friends Lindsay and Xuyen would be there to help them hurdle any obstacle high school presented.

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Perhaps the most challenging but also the most rewarding part of the Future Teachers Club was the weekly dodgeball games played in the school's gym. Each week the number of (mostly male) middle-schoolers increased till the numbers soared to almost fifty. At first, I wasn't sure what sort of "learning experience" playing dodgeball would be for the middle school students or future teachers, but I quickly discovered that it was a powerful one. One day one of the toughest middle school students, Shane, was accidentally slammed in the face with a dodgeball. I was standing near the sidelines, and Shane came over to me, a nice red mark spreading across his face. "You know, Barile," he said. "If this was three months ago, I'd be in a raging fight right now with the person that threw that ball at me. But I know it was unintentional, and I'm shaking it off and getting back in the game." I was proud of Shane, and I watched him change from a boy with discipline problems in his school to a strong leader among his peers. Kevin, a future teacher, began tutoring Shane after school, and when Shane wrote a sonnet for his English class that received an A, I knew that the club had succeeded in many of its goals.

The principal, vice-principals, and social workers at the RMA all listed the many ways that the FTC helped their students. Discipline problems decreased, students forged friendships, and grades and attendance improved. The FTC wasn't a panacea for all middle school issues, but it certainly helped solve a variety of problems.

I encourage teachers to get involved with service learning programs in their schools. Instructor Magazine has three quick service learning ideas that would benefit any middle or high school student. Other ideas for service learning can be found at Volunteering to Help the Environment, Volunteering to Help with Animals, and Volunteering to Help Seniors.

We launched the new 2010–2011 FTC program last week. Four of the new members were former middle school students, now 9th graders. Watching these young teens transition from mentees to mentors has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

Comments

Ms. Barile, i love the future teacher club. Its a great club. I love watching Brittany play the guitar.

I miss being a Future Teacher so much! I learned so much from the program, I wish I was still in high school JUST so I could do this! And the kids look so happy!

Wildan, you are the FACE of The Program, and when you are a 9th grader, you will be a Future Teacher!

Ohhh my god I love this program. It is the best program ever. I have so much fun, and I really enjoy it. There are people from all over, and I've been doing it for 2 years already, and I never get sick of it.

Wildan Tmusic

JT - the Revere programs are on a 5 year grant from Mass General Hospital that I hope will be renewed. Thanks, J5284 - that boy really made a lot of progress in FTC. And Stephanie, you are right. You can actually see the kids growing and learning right before your eyes - both high school and middle school students!

The kids seem to really love this program and, as an added bonus, they are actually learning and growing from it! I think you hit gold with this one, Nancy. You are an inspiration to us all.

This says it all. Great job with a successful program.

"You know, Barile," he said. "If this was three months ago, I'd be in a raging fight right now with the person that threw that ball at me. But I know it was unintentional, and I'm shaking it off and getting back in the game." I was proud of Shane, and I watched him change from a boy with discipline problems in his school to a strong leader among his peers. Kevin, a future teacher, began tutoring Shane after school, and when Shane wrote a sonnet for his English class that received an A, I knew that the club had succeeded in many of its goals."

Nancy your article reminded me what a wonderful source our own students can be in and out of the classroom! I am impressed with your students' maturity and the growth all kids achieved out of this experience. Is Revere considering making service programs permanent? You said you got funding through a grant and donated instruments. It would be so much value if school districts recognized what your program proved (what better social experiment?!) and backed it up through funding and personnel. I really think your program gave these students ownership of their community... I believe you've found a strong answer to having kids take charge of their community and give back!

Thanks, Nick. It does work out well both for the middle school student and the high school student. Our biggest problem is we're getting too many kids!

Looks like a great program. Any high school student on the teaching path must be ecstatic. The kids look like they are having a blast, let's hope you get even more funding.

Thanks, Allie - it's a ton of fun. Watching the kids learn and grow is truly rewarding!

Nancy ~ what a great program for young people. I can see how these young people would become responsible, and hardworking. What an advantage they have to learn these valuable lessons. And what an honor for those mentees to become mentors. I bet you are a great motivator and advisor. Wonderful post! ~Allie

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