by Maria Williams
Hello again. It has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote for the PSERVE blog. I had military duty last week, so I chose not to blog. This month was different since drill was 3 days and started Friday, instead of the normal weekend. Last week, I had to take Friday off work at St. Vincent’s Villa to go to drill. I left the Baltimore PSERVE house on Thursday night. During the week, I was entirely focused on preparing for drill, so I did not feel that I would be able to write a good blog for PSERVE, but this week I was ready to blog. In my last blog, I talked a lot about my background since I wanted to provide an introduction, but this week I would like to talk more about my experiences during this month.
I want to talk briefly about some different experiences in the PSERVE house. During winter and spring breaks, the PSERVE house is used as lodging for Alternative Student Break (ASB) groups. They consist of college students who choose to spend their breaks doing community service. For Catholic Charities, they spend a week volunteering at a variety of our programs. For instance, they often work with Matt at Our Daily Bread, Eric at Esperanza Center, Marta at Sarah’s House, and Arthur and me at St. Vincent’s Villa. They also may spend time at My Sister’s Place and the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center. We had a couple of groups come in the winter, but this month they are here every week. It has been interesting having them in the house for the past three weeks. They usually tend to spend most of their time in the rooms downstairs, which are specifically reserved for such groups. I have not been able to talk to them much. But, they also cook dinner at the house, so we have been sharing our kitchen space for a while. During that time when I see them I have been able to get the chance to talk to some of them. They all seem like good groups of people, so I have not minded having the extra company around. During the first week, the house hosted a group from University of Michigan St. Mary’s Student Parish; Mitchell came the second week, and Merrimack this week.
My work at St. Vincent’s Villa (SVV) Schools has been interesting since I have had some new experiences. For those who don’t know, SVV Schools have students in grades K-8; the elementary school kids go to a school on one side of the campus called Pot Spring and the middle school kids go to a school on the other side called Dulaney Valley. The first two weeks of March focused on MSA test administration. Because SVV serves students with special needs, many of the kids need special academic accommodations to take standardized tests. For instance, for tests, the students may need a scribe or verbatim reader. During the MSA testing, all of the teachers had to administer the test and all of the other staff acted as student accommodators. The 1:1 specialists worked with the students they normally work with on a daily basis. All the ETAs and specialists were assigned to work with other students who needed help. Even then, there were not enough people to help all the students who needed accommodators so volunteers came in to help. The school’s normal schedule changed since the test was administered in the morning. All the morning specials’ classes, which include Music, Art, PE, and Pre-Voc, were cancelled. The afternoon schedule stayed the same. During MSA testing, instead of working in Pre-Voc, I worked as an accommodator. I got the chance to help students at both schools.
This month I have spent less time in Pre-Voc than usual. Since a lot of the classes were cancelled for MSA testing, the lesson plan for the afternoon classes was changed so that afternoon students would not get ahead of the morning classes. The lessons focused on building money skills, since many of the students are not exposed to money often. The students were asked to play games related to counting money. One game was Money Bingo, which the students played the first week. In the second week, they played a game called Equa-Valo. They also got a chance to use special calculators, called Coin-A-Lators, to help them count.
Last Tuesday, I worked 1:1 with a student who often has difficulty; I worked with the same student on Wednesday. I was complimented by the staff for doing a good job. Normally, on Fridays, Arthur and I go to Belcamp to teach Pre-Voc to the students at the SVV Hartford County School, but he had to go without me last week. Like last week, this week has also been a short week for me at SVV. On Monday, Baltimore County had another snow day, so Arthur and I did not have to work. On Tuesday, there was a 2-hour delay; I also missed Pre-Voc, since I was needed as a 1:1 with the same student as before. It was an interesting day and I learned to work with different types of student behavior.
Next week is the end of the third quarter for SVV. Grades are due for the specialists at the end of this week. For the past 2 quarters, I have calculated the Pre-Voc grades for the students. These grades are based on an average of grades from daily rubrics. I averaged the grades for this quarter earlier this week, and today I finished submitting them for report cards. I noted that a lot of the students’ grades have improved since the last quarter. I would like to think that this is because their Pre-Voc participation has gotten better. I am curious to see what will happen next quarter.