Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: New Orleans Outreach

I don’t want to write this blog.I am a fantastic writer.  In school – I could write myself out of any bad grade which came in handy when my essays were compared to my poor SAT scores.  There is a catch though: I am only a writer when I feel like being one.  This month, I don’t feel like writing.  And that is when the pressure of a blog with a deadline become weighted and honestly – annoying.I imagine that is how the 10th grade boy felt when he ran to me at 5pm on a Thursday asking me for help with a paragraph in his PowerPoint.  At first, I proceeded to tell him that so many paragraphs in a PowerPoint defeats the purpose of a PowerPoint.  Then I turned to the…let’s say “creative” words he had created.  But after a really difficult 10-15 min, I realized that it wasn’t the most important thing to be critical about.  The scholar already proved that he knew a great deal more about traveling through Italy and making a presentation than before he started this project (which was the whole purpose of the assignment I assume).   Going back now at 5:15pm and editing what he probably already edited and trying to teach him things he hadn’t yet grasped in class would have been information overload.  So instead, I decided to give him suggestions and let him take them wherever he wanted.  Then we played around with interesting concluding sentences for a bit before I complimented him (genuinely) on his project and went back into my office to try and finish my “projects” at a reasonable time.

I thought of this last week while talking to some teachers from different public schools in the area.  They were expressing frustrations with having the difficult if not almost impossible feat of changing their student’s mindsets.  How can you teach a boy that girls aren’t hoes, and slang that’s actually not even English (beaucoup) doesn’t belong in most types of essays?  How can you do this if every day they go home and forget more than half of the things that they are taught?  That is a lot of pressure to have.

So I try to keep all my life’s lessons on a handy convenient shelf to take down at the necessary moments.  So I took down my memories of working in a middle school in Harlem.  I remember all the students – I spent two years with half of them.  But I particularly remember one sweet little girl who just could not retain math (or ELA or science for that matter – but I worked with her mainly in math).  We’d work hard on decimals and then two days later I would try to take it to the next level but have to go back to the first step.  It would result in both of us feeling frustrated and defeated.  I eventually had to back track and add in a good amount of review each time we met one-on-one.  The teacher made it so that the girl and I could go slower than the rest of the class and I began to see her retaining – a little.  I’m sure she retained more hugs from me than knowledge – but it was more knowledge then she had before, and hugs last pretty long as well. 

I guess this blog is saying that everyone has their own pace.  Pushing beyond that pace is not always the best method – at least when it comes to learning and teaching…well, not at first anyway, not when working with this demographic.  Not when you are changing minds and habits.  To this day, I hate being forced to write and I love writing so man! I’m so sure these kids hate being constantly forced to change and go against what they are used to – even if it is for the better.  – Victoria (Tori) Wilson, AmeriCorps VISTA Member

To learn more about Tori’s work with New Orleans Outreach, visit their website at: http://www.nooutreach.org.

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About Tulane VISTA

Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

One comment on “Field Report: New Orleans Outreach

  1. Dominica Garza
    March 4, 2010

    I must agree, I use to find myself kicking and screaming when it came to “forced” actions. I certainly see how this can hold true with the age group of the students you are working with. However, I sometimes (unexpectedly) find enjoyment performing tasks or duties I was forced into, often even learning valuable lessons along the way. Hopefully, your students will reflect the same notion. Keep up all of your good work! P.S. I know you “don’t want to write this blog,” but please continue to—I always enjoy reading your entries!!!

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This entry was posted on March 4, 2010 by in New Orleans Outreach and tagged , , , , , , .

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