Written by Christina Chalmers’s International Voices Class
Edited by Cristina Anillo and Julia Dean
St. Andrew’s English teacher Christina Chalmers challenged the seniors in her International Voices elective to integrate Mind, Brain, and Education research into a reflection on their experience working with Chicos and Kids, an organization founded by St. Andrew’s alumna Stephanie Quintero.
Ms. Chalmers’s students created and executed lesson plans for students at Gaithersburg Elementary School, a multicultural community that includes children from South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. The goals of the trip included serving the community, learning about the teaching process, and understanding the lives of immigrants and their children.
For their final exam, Ms. Chalmers’s students reflected on how the experience helped them connect themes from the class to the community. In addition, students wrote about their own learning experiences in conjunction with their teaching experiences at Gaithersburg Elementary School. Read the following excerpts to discover the positive impact that Ms. Chalmers, a passionate and hardworking teacher, has on her students:
- “By being in the shoes of a teacher, I know the effort and energy teachers put in everyday to teach a class. Before this, I really did not consider the directions and curriculum teachers have to design everyday to engage students. I will take this experience to college with me to help understand why teachers do the things they do and the effort they go through to engage you into learning.”
- “Since my freshman year at SAES, I have seen huge growth in myself and my mindset thanks to my teachers… I have such appreciation for teachers that enjoy their job. I believe that a good teacher is what makes the class, and as a student, I tend to work harder depending on if I like the teacher or not. I do think that being a research informed student helps because it allows one to learn the limits of how much your brain can do and also shows just how amazing the human brain is.”
- “There have been some strategies that some of my teachers used here at SAES that have helped me understand information while actually absorbing the information that is presented to me. For example, in a history class, my teacher used a PowerPoint presentation with pictures to try to explain information about a concept. I found this to be helpful because not only was I gaining information from the bullet points of information along with the pictures, but the visuals were helping me keep and remember the information from the PowerPoint… Now I appreciate my teachers and what they do more because I now see how hard it can be for them sometimes. Being a research informed student-teacher will help me as a college student because it will help me think more analytically and quickly when solving problems.”
- “In the weeks preceding my lesson, I was very nervous and not keen on teaching a lesson mostly because I was not sure what to expect. Would the kids respect me? Would they like me? Would they pay attention to me? Did they even want to be there? Once I got the lesson with my first group out of the way, all my nerves, questions, and concerns vanished. With each group, I got better at teaching the lesson. One challenge I faced early on was keeping the kids engaged. However, I was able to solve this problem for the most part by participating in the activity, allowing me to be more engaged with them.”
- “In ‘Infusing Psychological Science into Curriculum’ one researcher writes, ‘Should teachers be concerned with their students’ ability to learn? The answer to that question depends on a teacher’s belief about the primary goal of teaching… If a teacher believes that the goal of teaching is to develop student understanding, then whether and how students learn is a major concern.’ Teachers that believe the goal of teaching is to develop understanding are the teachers I’ve personally found myself learning the most from both in a classroom setting and a musical environment.”
- “[One] interaction I had with a student was with a little girl who was absolutely silent. When I noticed that she was not talking to others in her group, I asked if she was ok, and if she knew what the directions were. When I asked the question she responded “yes” and showed me her work sheet, which was completely filled out with reasons why people should vote for her. This interaction gave me the knowledge that every kid is different when it comes to working in groups.”
- “This experience really opened my eyes to how important teachers are in the world of education. According to the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), after the students themselves, teachers are the next greatest source of variance that can make a difference in a student’s achievement. Therefore, we need to ‘direct [our] attention at higher quality teaching, and higher expectations that students can meet appropriate challenges.’ Although, following this experience, I gained a greater appreciation for teachers and the role they play in shaping the youth, moving forward, I still am not likely to consider ever becoming a school teacher. However, I will move onto the next stage of life being a research informed student-teacher. This knowledge will aid my growth and ability to better communicate with my professors as I become a college student next fall.”
Ms. Chalmers’s students appreciated this positive experience; they not only learned about the different voices in the community, but they also gained appreciation for the teaching profession and Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) science. By employing their metacognitive skills, the students bridged the gap between MBE research and the classroom. This experiential learning opportunity with Chicos and Kids allowed seniors to reflect on their service learning experience through a MBE lens while directly applying themes from their International Voices class with Ms. Chalmers, an educator who routinely integrates research into the classroom.