I’ve been teaching a FLP class at Woodlawn for about 5 years now, and every year, we’ve had a WETA representative come and speak to the class. It’s nice, and she gives them all a book when she’s finished, so it’s a very positive experience. I’ve wanted to have someone different visit the class for quite awhile now, and I finally came up with a plan. I sent an e-mail to the Mount Vernon Police Station and asked if they had an officer who could come and speak to us. I heard from them very quickly, and they told me that an Officer named Ray Gonzalez was available. He and I spoke on the phone and discussed what I had in mind – - child safety seats and pedestrian safety were the two main issues. He said he could talk about gang activity in the area too, so I said sure. I told him that all but one of the students were Spanish speakers, many of whom were beginners, so he said he could speak in both Spanish and English.
The closer the day got, the more nervous I was about this. I was taking an online class and had posted my Lesson Plan for all to see. Several commented that they thought this could be very risky and I might have an empty classroom that night! So we had a pre-visit lesson on what the police do and how they help us, etc. in an effort to convince them to come and hear what the officer had to say.
Class turnout on the night of Officer Gonzalez’ visit was a little light – 9 students - and two parents from the school also came. Other than that though, I felt pretty silly for worrying so much. He started his presentation with a little background about himself. He was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in a little town in the hills. He joined the Marines out of high school and ended up in the United States. He is now in the National Guard and has been to Iraq three times. Not only did he cover the subjects I asked for, but he spoke about very difficult issues, like domestic and child abuse, and did it directly, but carefully. He mostly talked frankly with them about crime prevention and gave everyone his card before he left. He told them to call him anytime and offered his assistance with any problems they had. He handled himself in a very professional, yet friendly, manner, and represented the Fairfax County Police Department so well. What a great role model!
It was such a positive experience that I would highly recommend trying it, and now I’m thinking about who to invite next! Got any ideas?
~Sheila Weiss, lead teacher at Woodlawn Elementary