Grad Class: Diversity Journal

by 2:51 PM 0 comments
For my first grad class, which is a Human Relations/Diversity course, we are doing a service learning project with elementary students from Jackson Elementary in Omaha. Part of our grade is a journal of the meetings with students, and application of some of the course materials within our journal.

I thought I would share my first journal entry, and the introduction to my "subject" for my entries. The bold and italicized words and phrases are for my professor.

*I have blocked my subject's name out with a Y.

Dr. Austin wanted us to meet the kids, try to figure out where they are in their needs; and I was a lost deer in the headlights at first. I have imposed a phobia on myself about working with younger kids (one substitute job lasted three days, felt like a lifetime), and I will overcome that.

When Katie (one of the liaisons at Jackson Elementary) gave us a general run-down of how to start, I waited to see what everyone else would do. I had one idea of an ice-breaker with the kids, but worksheets were put out in front of us. I knew I would want to work with the older group of students (5/6 grade), so I went for a small stack in that pile. I grabbed an assortment of colored pencils, and cleared my mind. It was a summer/after school program, why limit the kids to regular pencils? After about three minutes, I went and watched one of the teachers (non-UNO students) who was playing UNO - the card game - with a group of latino boys. At the other end of the lunch table was a group of latino girls. I finally just walked to the girls and asked to sit down.

One of our goals was to check the kids’ current level of achievement. I basically wanted to know how well the students could read or write or speak. Looking back, that sounds funny, but after what Dr. Austin said, some of these kids might not speak any English (the younger kids, 2nd-4th were more likely to not speak English than the older ones who may already be parental translators). My personal Spanish is rough, sporadic, and awful at best. I knew a few curse words to listen for at the high school level, and maybe some of the basics for everyday objects or questions. But stringing together fluent sentences is not up there. So, with no goal of a subject (whether individual or the whole group) I asked the girls if I could tell them a joke.

I am a notoriously bad joke-teller. So I have decided that the funniest jokes are the corniest ones. Then, no matter how bad I screw it up, it’s a “sad trombone” moment, no matter what. Plus, I get a kick out of corny jokes. I told the group of (now) seven girls and one boy my chicken and the librarian joke; warning them full-well they might think it’s silly or corny. Cue punchline. Cue fake laughs. I then asked Yulisa (one of the fake-laughers; I didn’t know her name yet) to explain why the joke was funny. And she did rather well (point for auditory learner). I don’t know yet if that’s her preferred method, but it’s a start.

I then asked each member of my little group to take a sheet of paper (I tore the three worksheets I had into small squares) and a colored pencil of their choice. While doing this, I had one of the girls (Mimi) offer up any joke she knew, it was a knock-knock joke. I helped her through it because she was having a hard time coming up with the punchline. So we did it together. Then, I coaxed the group into writing their own funny/corny joke on the paper so I could keep it. I allowed them to use what they heard from others as their joke. These steps of the gradual release of responsability (GRR is something we do in my high school) would help me learn names, writing ability, and see where I was with them as far as authority figure. I was looking for their independent performance level (IPL) that I could set now, and work towards in the four more meetings I have.

As I collected and read their jokes (with their permission of course), I noticed Yulisa didn’t hand me one, individually. That was the moment she became my focus. Was it her peer group? Can she write in English? Does she not know any jokes? Why didn’t she do it when everyone else did? Did she feel bad? She had a look of feeling bad. What I mean is, even though she got my joke, when everyone else was writing, she went back to playing a game with a new boy that joined our group, but kept very quiet. I have a feeling she is very smart, but very shy.

So at the end of day one (during which I became the goalie for our game of soccer outside), I have a “subject” for my journal. I will focus more on her throughout, apply what the Toolboxes from lecture and in-class work, and hopefully, gain a better understanding of what I can do to get Yulisa to do her best (and motivate her to motivate herself - which by the way is a very lofty goal for four meetings!).

And so it begins. Again.

And, my first course for a Masters in Secondary Ed with a concentration of Technology is a course the has/will have absolutely nothing to do with either just shows (if only a little bit) why our tuition and costing system for college is ... less than ideal. But that might be another post.




I do a lot of things. The best thing I do is fathering (I think). I'm the ol' "Jack of all trades, Master of none." I teach aspiring journalists. I run. I play guitar(s). I also host a running podcast. Oh, and I dabble in drawing. And I dabble in authoring... children's books no less. I just dabble. Sometimes I ramble.


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