Learning through Experience: My Time with AmeriCorps

December 17, 2012 at 5:00 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This year I am serving as one of the Corps Members with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Though it is my first time serving with the LCNV, it will be my fourth term of service with AmeriCorps. I have viewed each service year as a fantastic opportunity to become a part of my community, to gain knowledge and experience, to be exposed to different cultures and beliefs, and to challenge myself to grow. AmeriCorps has been an amazing supplement to my education, has driven me to pursue further education, has interested me in new fields and possible careers, and has supported me in all these pursuits. It is interesting to look back on the time I have spent with this service organization and see how my earlier terms helped to prepare me to serve with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.

During my first two terms with AmeriCorps I served through Jumpstart, a national non-profit that works toward the day where every child enters school prepared to succeed. The focus was on early emerging literacy. I worked one-on-one as well as within a classroom setting with my preschool aged partner child to help her develop her literacy skills and prepare her for the transition into kindergarten. During my third term I served through the Roanoke City Public Libraries as a computer literacy instructor to adult learners. I worked one-on-one with library patrons answering various questions they may have about computers and instructing classes on computer basics. Both literacy programs, though different types of literacy and very different audiences.

In-class Election at Crestwood FLP 2012

In-class Election at an LCNV Family Learning Program class, November 2012

Though there may not be a direct connection I have been able to pull on experiences from my work with early literacy for my low beginner learners like teaching someone how to hold a writing utensil or introducing the letters of the alphabet. The computer literacy experience has been helpful when I have had to brainstorm ways to explain a seemingly complex topic to someone who is very new to the language. For example, teaching a person who has never used a computer to create an email account required that I create a series of small steps, each meant to introduce a different skill, that would ultimately build to the goal of creating an email account. It is very similar when structuring an ESOL lesson plan. Recently I felt overwhelmed by the idea of trying to introduce elections in the classroom. With a Presidential Election just around the corner, it seemed like an interesting topic and one that might be useful to my students. But what should I focus on? What is the objective? What would be useful to know? What background information would you need to understand the election process? And so on…. I went through several drafts which eventually broke up into many classes of lessons about government and elections.

I have only been serving for a few months with the Literacy Council but I have already learned so much and have made many connections within my community and within my classrooms. I can’t imagine how great the impact will be by the end of the service year. And who knows what will happen after this year – there are so many opportunities – and that is what I love about AmeriCorps.

Rachel Conn Martin
AmeriCorps Instructor
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22042
www.lcnv.org

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