A guest blog post by Boston Public Schools teacher Jennifer DiSarcina
Between managing curriculums, juggling the needs of 20+ students, and keeping up with ever-evolving education standards, we at Boston Partners think it’s safe to say that teachers have mastered the art of “multi-tasking.” However, we also believe that teachers could use an extra set of hands or pair of eyes in the classroom. We asked Jenn DiSarcina, a 5th grade teacher at the Eliot School, one of eight schools that hosts our Math Rules! program, to explain the benefit she sees to inviting volunteers into her classroom.
For the last seven years of my service in the Boston Public Schools, I have been privileged to welcome several Boston Partners’ volunteers into my classroom. The collaboration and partnership has been immeasurably valuable to not only my students, but to me as well. For the first four years, I worked with the same volunteer (we even transferred schools together!). The students loved having Jolene as part of our class, and they felt completely at ease asking either one of us for assistance with their work.
A Teaching Tool
As a doctoral student, Jolene saw learning as a lifelong process. So when she would share information about her lab work, the students saw her love for math and took a vested interest in higher education. Jolene was also the perfect collaborator when students became perplexed, launching a question in front of the whole class to clarify understanding in a way that sometimes I hadn’t anticipated while lesson planning. By asking the questions, Jolene modeled for the students that it was not only safe, but also important to ask for clarification when things were not so easily understood (or taught!). This opened the floor for more questions being asked, and improved my teaching by anticipating where I could be clearer, and where I needed to slow down and modify my instruction. Students felt secure in the fact that it was ok not to know or understand immediately, and sometimes it took a group effort to make sure everyone “got it.”
Ms. DiSarcina works with a small group of 5th graders in her classroom
Multiplying the Impact
This year, I was fortunate enough to watch the camaraderie between a Boston Partners volunteer and a student she had traveled with for three years, since the third grade. Judy and my student share a rapport that helps him get excited about math class. Their relationship also holds him accountable… he knows that each week, someone is coming especially for him to check in on his successes and needs in math. Watching them inspired some of my other students to ask for math volunteers as well, so we welcomed two more volunteers into the classroom. EVERYONE wants a Math Rules! buddy now! It’s not seen as “tutoring” or remediation. The school and class culture is such that the kids just honestly know that adults care about them -adults outside of their teachers and families, other citizens of Boston. It is cool to be part of Math Rules! And as a teacher, that is an extraordinary feeling.
For teachers considering a volunteer academic mentor for their students, please know that Boston Partners recognizes and respects the many demands of educators in the classroom. Even if your school does not participate in our Math Rules! program, any teacher in Boston may request a volunteer through our School Volunteer Program. Nominate a student using our simple and streamlined application process. Visit http://tinyurl.com/teacherwebinar for more information or contact a member of our Placement Team at 617.451.6145 or [email protected].
About the Author: Jennifer DiSarcina is a fifth grade teacher at the Eliot K-8 School in the North End. Ms. DiSarcina was a founding teacher at the Orchard Gardens Pilot School in 2003, and prior to teaching for BPS, she taught fifth grade in the DC Metro Area. Since coming to Boston, Ms. DiSarcina has utilized volunteers from Boston Partners in Education, particularly those from the Math Rules! program.