Teachers in action project-Kara Kirk

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Teachers In Action Service-Learning Experience:

Teachers In Action Service-Learning Experience Kara Kirk krnk0248@knights.ucf.edu 4/7/11 EEX 4242

Introduction to the Host Setting:

Introduction to the Host Setting I completed my service hours at BRIDGES: Building Bridges to Better Lives Their mission statement is “we are a community based organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing informed choices for children and adults with disabilities. We are uniquely qualified to offer a flexible range of cost sensitive, practical solutions to the challenges in life through our employment, residential, advocacy, therapeutic and educational programs.” They are a community based organization supporting children and adults with disabilities for more than fifty years in Central Florida.

Introduction to the Host Setting:

Introduction to the Host Setting “Bridges BTC was founded in 1956 as the ‘Brevard Training Center’(BTC)  by concerned parents who were unable to find any formal educational services for their children with disabilities other than in large publically funded institutions for the retarded and feeble minded. In taking this momentous step, they joined hundreds of other families around the country who wanted an alternative to the prevailing medical advice which tended to recommend institutionalization.”

Introduction to the Host Setting :

Introduction to the Host Setting The different programs and services they have include Community Day Programs, ‘I-Force’ Employment Skills Program, Enrich, Adult Basic Education, Transportation, Veterans Home, Art Studio, Employment Services, Material Recycling Facility, Residential Services, Supported Living, and Personal and Family Supports and Services. Some of the struggles that the organization has is with funding for individuals to come. There are over 100 people served by the organization.

Engagement Activities:

Engagement Activities Every Friday I would go to BRIDGES and work with a group of about 11 people in the Enrichment class. These are the individuals who need the most help and support. There was a number of things I would do such as feeding those who could not eat on their own, helping them with puzzles or games, playing catch, working one on one trying to get some to speak or practice showing where body parts are like nose, hair, eyes, etc., and just spending time and talking to some of them. Their main goal is to keep the people that go there on the level they are on and keep the abilities that they can do. They want them to progress but do not want them to fall back and lose any ability that they can do. I fulfilled my 15 hours weekly. I got started with BRIDGES through a friend. One of my friends mom’s works with BRIDGES and does Special Olympics and I talked to her and she referred me.

Participant Demographics:

Participant Demographics The people that I worked with were ages 22 and up. One man at BRIDGES is 87! There are all kinds of different linguistic heritages and ethnic backgrounds but everyone’s primary language is English. There is every disability you can think of. There were around 10 people served through my service learning experience.

Participant Demographics:

Participant Demographics The I.D.E.A. does not pertain to the individuals that I was working with because they are age 22 and older but when they were in school they would have been considered persons with disabilities based on the I.D.E.A. for a number of reasons. One specific part of the I.D.E.A. states that there must be criteria for determining the existence of a specific learning disability. If they do not meet State-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas, when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child’s age or State-approved grade–level standards, then they may be considered having a specific learning disability: • Oral expression •Listening comprehension •Written Expression •Basic Reading Skills •Reading Fluency Skills •Reading Comprehension •Mathematics Calculation •Mathematics Problem Solving

Service in Action:

Service in Action

Perceptions of Differences:

Perceptions of Differences When I initially found out that I had to work with people with disabilities for a service learning project I was a little hesitant and nervous because I never have before. I didn’t know how to act or treat them and I was afraid of doing something wrong. I learned that even though they may look different physically, they may still be intellectually normal and be able to understand everything. I was a little uncomfortable at first but eventually I became more comfortable after spending time with them and I really grew to love them. I missed them each week after I left. They have such huge hearts and I am really glad that I was able to have an experience like this. The experience that had the biggest impact on me was when a man that never talks or says a single word actually said a word several times when I was working with him one day. It was so rewarding and I was so happy for him. It brought tears to my eyes.

Connections to Your Course:

Connections to Your Course I was completing the Teachers in Action project for EEX 4242- Teaching Exceptional Children In Secondary Settings One course topic that I better understand now is Autism. A few of the people that I worked with were severely Autistic. I learned that a lot of times they may seem like they are not paying attention, but they can hear every word you say from across the room. Another course topic that I better understand now is Co-teaching and collaboration. The individuals that worked at BRIDGES were great at this. Although they are not teachers, they do work great together and they use team work to get things done. This is very important to me because when students can see that you are willing to work with your co-workers it makes them feel more comfortable and leads to their success along with feeling that they belong. The individuals that worked at BRIDGES made sure that they created a comfortable environment for everyone that went there. This also made me more comfortable.

Connections to Your Course:

Connections to Your Course The third course topic that I better understand now is Intellectual Disabilities. Most of the individuals that I worked with at BRIDGES had intellectual disabilities and you could tell just by spending a little time with them. They are unable to plan, reason, and solve complex problems. Most of them were unable to even hold a conversation. Now that I have spent time with them, I better understand their disability and their actions. Patience and kindness goes a long way with these individuals. These experiences will have a huge impact on my future work because I know how to work with people with disabilities and I can be comfortable with them if I ever have them in a class that I teach.

Civic Engagement:

Civic Engagement One aspect of service-learning is to show the power and importance of being civically engaged. My perspective on civic engagement now is that it is so important and also rewarding. I think everyone should have an opportunity to work with people with disabilities. It makes you understand what they go through better and know how to treat them or work with them. It serves a purpose in society because people with disabilities don’t receive the attention and help they need sometimes and they deserve to be treated with respect and love. I think service-learning as a method of learning is genius because instead of just reading about a topic, you get hands on experience which is so much more interesting and rewarding.

Civic Engagement:

Civic Engagement This experience definitely motivates me to be more engaged in the future! I really loved working with the people that I did. They have such big hearts and it made me feel so great to work with them and even spend time with them. I would encourage teachers, students and everyone to embrace service-learning in the future because you get hands-on experience and learn so much. You even get to witness a little miracle sometimes when things happen that nobody thinks could (like someone who never speaks saying a word). It is so rewarding and humbling.

Final Thoughts:

Final Thoughts I am really glad that this was a requirement because I feel much more comfortable around people with disabilities and I learned what to expect and how to treat them. They deserve to be treated equally and with a lot of love. I feel more comfortable around people with disabilities and I feel that I will be able to better help students in my classroom with disabilities whether physical or mental. Giving back to the community, doing things for others and being selfless is an important part of life. There is always someone out there that can learn something from you or that you can help without expecting anything in return although I feel that I definitely received so much in return from this experience! I gained so much from this experience more than any other service-learning project I have ever done! I will always encourage my students and fellow teachers to engage in service-learning experiences.

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