Students walk a mile in teachers' shoes

February 08, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

St. Louis School eighth-grader Joe Sullivan ripped open a bag of plain M&Ms and separated the candies by color, giving a handful to four kindergartners, all of whom sat and stared in puzzlement.

The candies -- later eaten -- were counting tools Joe used to teach them simple arithmetic, mainly subtraction. In his first teaching assignment, the 14-year-old tried various tactics, including counting with fingers and writing on a chalkboard. He taught like a pro.

"What if I covered three fingers, what would you have?" he asked 6-year-old Kristen Moore.

"None," she replied.

"No," he said. "In this class, we say zero, not zilch, zip, none."

He was among about 25 eighth-graders who taught various classes, including English, computers and gym, to younger students at the parochial school in Clarksville. Wednesday's activity coincided with Catholic Schools Week, a nationwide celebration last week.

"Whatever lesson the teacher is doing at the time, the eighth-graders plan and teach," said Sister Mary Catherine Duerr, St. Louis School's principal. "It's amazing when they teach. The younger students look up to the eighth-graders. In some instances, they're more attentive."

Other eighth-graders helped write creative stories with first-graders, played blocks with kindergartners and taught religious education to fourth-graders.

Leo Farber, 14, read "Katie and the Big Snow" to three attentive five and six year-olds who sat Indian-style on the floor, heads bent up. Richard Koza, also 14, played Candyland Bingo at a small table with energetic kindergartners.

"This bingo is a little different," he said. "This bingo, you have to tell me what the verb is in my sentence."

"Oh, no," groaned Alexandra Chioini, 5.

Student teachers said they didn't realize how hard the task was. Many said they weren't sure if the kids were paying attention. "The kids were less than enthusiastic at first," said Joe. "But I wanted them to learn what I learned when I was in their grade."

Maria Pfau, 14, appreciates her teachers more after spending time in their shoes.

"I think we take advantage of what our teachers teach us," said Maria, who spent hours preparing her one-hour religious education lesson on David and the Lion's Den. "It's hard. It seems as if the students respect you, but you really don't know if they think you're an idiot or what."

Alison Milne, 13, didn't know teachers had to plan so much. "Every time they come to class, the kids expect to do something, so you have to be ready to teach them," she said. "Teachers have to get everything weeks and weeks in advance. It was a lot of work, and I didn't know how much until today."

Fortunately, she had help from her teacher. "She gave us ideas on how to plan," Alison said. "She told us she wrote hers as if she were doing lab reports. We just did outlines."

Brenna Dailey, 13, learned that while students complain about doing too much homework, they don't realize teachers tackle a lot of homework themselves. "They do more work than we do," she said. "And they have to be good relating to people." She also learned that each child has his or her own learning style. "I enjoyed it," she said about being a teacher. "I like children, and it was interesting."

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