At the end of my senior year in high school, I spent the semester at my local middle school helping my former second grade teacher with her class. Because I do not have any younger siblings, I really enjoyed the time I had with my favorite elementary school teacher and her amazing students. My experience as a teacher’s assistant can be easily related to four individual works of literature.
“Mending Wall” by Robert Frost tells the story of two neighbors separated by a wall. In the poem the wall is a symbol of segregation. Every year, Mother Nature tries to tear down their wall but the two neighbors keep repairing and rebuilding their wall because of tradition. Just as there are laws of nature, there are also laws and expectations established by society. For example, it is a societal norm that, unless children have older siblings to look up to, adults are usually the people that they should be learning from. But when I volunteered as a teacher’s assistant, I was able to teach them by pointing out lessons to be learned from their storybooks or projects they were working on. Although teaching was a very gratifying and rewarding experience, I almost felt as if I was going against the laws of society just as the two neighbors are going against the laws of nature by rebuilding their wall.
As a teacher’s assistant, part of my job was to go into the teacher’s lounge and make photocopies. Something I noticed during my time in the teacher’s lounge is that teachers gossip about one another just as teenagers do. Sometimes I would even hear the same gossip story multiple times and each time it sounded slightly different. The teachers would blindly gossip about one another, probably due to their own insecurities or jealousy, without knowing the whole truth to the story. This is similar to the way the two women in Jill McDonough’s “Accident, Mass. Ave” behaved after they got into a car accident with each other. As soon as the two women get out of their respective cars, they start screaming and swearing at each other without even realizing that there was no damage done to their cars. Like the teachers in the teacher’s lounge who gossip out of insecurity, the two women in the poem criticized each other out of fear and worry.
The most important observation I have made from reading Frances E. W. Harper’s “Learning To Read” is that knowledge is power and people feel threatened when they know that someone has the ability to surpass them intellectually. This directly relates to my teacher’s assistant experience because I would constantly have to remind the second graders how important reading was. They did not like to read their books during story time but I would always tell them that reading makes them smarter and gives them an advantage over those who do not read.
One of the major points in Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s “The Service of Faith….Education” is that Jesuit universities measure their lever of success according to what their students become not by how many marketable skills they’ve acquired. Because I got the chance to observe young students learn, I realized how much of an impact elementary school teachers truly have on their students and who they become. Although the teachers are not teaching difficult concepts to children of this age, they are shaping them into the people they will grow up to be just as Jesuit Universities do with their college students.