Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
An Ever-Growing Lesson: The Development of a Child
With my CIIS Travel Enrichment Grant, I was able to spend two weeks in Nairobi, Kenya after my semester abroad (spring '09). During these two weeks, I volunteered at the Red Rose School, a primary school in a slum of Nairobi called Kibera. While there, I taught in almost all of the classes, as well as assisted teachers in any way that was needed. In my first week I worked with the baby class, class 2 and class 3. In these classes, I taught math, English and science. During my second week, I spent time with the nursery, pre-unit and class 4, pre-unit and the nursery where I helped the babies with coloring letters of the alphabet, counting and painting. During class breaks and recess, I spent time playing and talking with the students and with the teachers.
My enrichment grant allowed me to do an independent study on comparing children I work with in Canton, and the students I would be working with in Kibera. I wanted to look at the ways in which a child is influenced by relationships with peers and supervisors. While being a student at SLU, I work at Oddesy Daycare in Canton. Throughout my time spent with the kids at work, I began to see how absorbent a child's mind can be, and the importance of early childhood experiences. The amount in which a child observes and takes in his or her surroundings is underestimated. Thus, I have been challenged to observe and analyze my own self as a role model and look at the influence a supervisor has in a child's development. I also began to look deeper at how the children interact with each other and how relationships shape their behaviors and attitudes.
During my time at Red Rose, I was able to compare what I learned from working with kids at home with the students of Red Rose. I looked at the ways in which teachers/mentors guided the children, and the ways in which the students received their authority figures. I also had great opportunities to see how they reacted among themselves and the influence this had on their behaviors. I gathered most of my valuable lessons when not teaching or in class. During the several breaks throughout the school day, the students were very open to talk and share themselves. This gave me a chance to create relationships with the students that helped me see how they are taught and how they react with one another influence their behaviors and attitudes.
I have been able to make connections between my work with the children in Canton and the students of Red Rose. The ways in which children have the ability to imitate those around them was once again very visible, challenging me to define my authoritative role at Red Rose. I saw how influential peer relationships are, as they are learning venue for the children. I saw the importance Red Rose teachers put into a strict learning environment, and how this was transmitted down to the students as they took education very seriously. I now bring back the different mentoring methods and new insights to my job in Canton, and have a deeper grasp on what role I play in the children's development.