Written by Emily Pisacreta, Service-Learning First-Year Writing Student
I did my service this semester at Hurley K-8 Elementary School, specifically at Bodega de Arte, the after school program there. My job at Hurley was to help the teachers and students anyway I could, and a lot of the time, that meant with math homework.
The very first day I got there, the kids were doing a worksheet on all of the different ways to count to ten. The questions were stuff like 7+___=10 or ___+7 =10. Explaining this concept, which is just so ingrained in my head, proved more difficult than I thought. For each different kid, my explanation had to be slightly different. For some I had to hold up seven fingers and have them count how many more they needed to get to ten. For others, I had to lay out 10 pencils, and the kids separated them into groups of seven and three. Others had to count backwards from ten until they hit seven; a method that seems way too complicated for me, but seemed to work for them.
The entire time I sat there, I was very tempted to just tell them the answer and move on. Especially as I kept trying things and nothing was working, the student and I both got more and more frustrated. It was very real proof to me that every kid learns differently. There is certainly no one “right” way to teach, and for each kid there could be quite a few “wrong” ways. To teach and to learn effectively, you need patience, and you need to be willing to try every trick you can find up your sleeve until you see the understanding dawn on their little faces. And it doesn’t happen right away, or even with every kid, but seeing the excitement on just one kid’s face when they finally understand the answer is worth it every time.