Sr. Barbara Davis, Tutor & Volunteer
As the calendar turns to the month of June, young people from preschool to high school turn their attention to summer vacation. Freedom from the daily routine of classes and homework gives way to a more relaxed schedule. Educators, however, realize that learning never takes a vacation and the summer months often lead to a loss of skills, particularly in the areas of mathematics and reading.
Parents, guardians, and caregivers are instrumental in providing learning opportunities, both formal and informal. Possibilities include:
Above all, be creative! Involve your child in finding new things to learn and to explore. Always remember "learning NEVER takes a vacation!"
For the past six weeks, Wednesdays at the BLC have shined even brighter than normal. That's because every Wednesday since Ash Wednesday, March 1st, some of the fine folks from St. Charles-Borromeo in Kettering have come by the Center with carloads of supplies for our students.
This year the St. Charles-Borromeo parish chose the Brunner Literacy Center as a recipient of their annual Lenten donation drive. Individuals and families contributed items like bus tokens, gift cards, notebooks, backpacks, and office supplies. These supplies came in bags and bags, filling up trunks of cars, filling up shopping carts. In fact, BLC staff and volunteers often had to borrow shopping carts from the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store next door just to get all the bags into the building! And every week even more supplies would arrive.
The Brunner Literacy Center has grown a great deal from where it was a year ago. We now operate at four different locations throughout Dayton, and we serve a more diverse population than ever before, including refugees, food pantry patrons, and those involved in the correctional system. Literacy changes lives. We know that to be true. And the people of St. Charles are making sure our students' lives change for the better. We are very grateful for their kindness, generosity, love, and support, and we wish the best to everyone who has helped us and our students this spring.
Recently I have begun to serve as a tutor and volunteer at the Brunner Literacy Center. Over the past three months, I have had the opportunity to speak with several students who have children in school – preschool through high school. In the course of these conversations, one of the things I have stressed is the value of parents maintaining communication with their child’s teacher. Several opportunities are provided for parents:
Parent-Teacher Conferences: Schools generally provide conference times during or at the end of the first grading period. Many will also provide a conference time in the spring. Of course, parents always have the right to request a conference with a teacher to discuss concerns or to ask questions. As a teacher for ten years and administrator for thirty-three years, I always believed that open communication between home and school is one of the best ways to insure that children are receiving an optimal educational experience.
Schools are required to provide information to both custodial and non-custodial parents. The only exception is if there is a court order prohibiting the non-custodial parent from having any contact with the school.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Some children receive instruction, often individual, outside the regular classroom setting. Generally an IEP is developed for the child which outlines the goals in a particular subject area, for example reading or mathematics, for the academic year. Federal, state, and/or local school laws and best practice require that parents (custodial and non-custodial) be invited to a conference to discuss the plan at both the beginning and end of the academic year. Attendance at both conferences provides valuable information for the parent(s) and lets the child know that his/her parents are interested not only in the child’s progress but also want to know how they can reinforce the school experience at home.
Why be involved in your child’s education?
Two students at the Center commented that they want their children to do well in school so that as adults they won’t be faced with challenges resulting from their inability to read or to perform basic math computations. I encouraged them to play an active role in their child’s education.
I often used the analogy that removing a small stone from one’s shoe as soon as the wearer notices it prevents blisters and an aching foot. If the stone is left in place, the pain becomes much greater. So, too, what seems like a small concern on the part of a parent, if left unattended, can result in a much bigger issue. Parents and teachers all want what is best for the children.
Truly maintaining a strong parent- school connection greatly enhances a child’s academic success. By working together, amazing things can be accomplished!
I outgrew cartoons a long time ago, or so I thought. Then one of my friends wanted to see Sing. No one else wanted to go, and it was her birthday, so I said, “Sure; why not?” and made up my mind to enjoy it. And I did. There was, of course, a lot of singing—done by fine voices in many interesting styles. Done by two pigs, a gorilla, a mouse, a porcupine, and an elephant. They were not exactly “people” I would have expected to have the talent, the soul.
Which led me to reflect on other life lessons. A parable about a baby more interested in the wrapping and the box than in the present inside. A C.S. Lewis image of a stable bigger on the inside than on the outside. Oh, yes, and the Girl Scout leader who taught me to knit, the one who had only one hand. The hunchbacked woman with an apartment and a heart big enough for troubled teenagers and desperate families. In fact, I can think of many people who (as I discovered when I got to know them well), are so much more than they first appeared to be.
Some of these people come to the Brunner Literacy Center. Some of them may seem to be pigs, or gorillas, or mice. They may appear to be prickly as porcupines or ungainly as elephants. Inside, most of them abound in courage, determination, humility, good humor, or the desire to make something of themselves. We who are tutors, we who sit and listen, are privileged to hear their beautiful voices.
Do you like Valentine’s Day? Some people love the idea of showering their special person with a token of love. Flowers, candy, or jewelry come to mind. But others shy away from this day. They think it is a contrived special occasion to sell cards, flowers, or decorations. They may have no one special at the moment to identify as a special love. They may be short on cash to fund what they would like to do.
I am the oldest of eleven children. Mom and Dad welcomed our friends and neighbors alike. There always seemed to be room for one or two more to join us. I was taught to say “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry” from a young age and helped pass those manners to my younger brothers and sisters. Love was a way of life each day for us. Yes, there were difficult times. All families have them. Those were the times that taught us the most about love.
As a teacher I’ve seen that children seem to like the idea of sending cards to their friends on Valentine’s Day. In schools you can often find huge celebrations for this day with the younger students. Their cards show the latest action figures, animals, or cartoon characters. Some are attached to pencils and some have candy to share with their Valentine. Once in a great while a youngster makes unique homemade cards for this special day. What excitement fills the room as they can really read their cards! Class parties have drinks and snacks as well as fun activities. Students may be sent home to their families on sugar highs which could last a week. In recent years, however, I noticed healthier snacks like fruit and veggie trays being served and eaten with just as much excitement.
In my experience, older students seemed to have a practice of making the day a great fundraising time. They sold heart-shaped suckers for a dollar and delivered them to students or adults in the school building. Getting five or six hearts made the receiver feel great. Getting only one was still a blessing if the gift came from a friend or relative. I have seen school groups checking the homeroom list to make sure all students received a Valentine heart sucker. Everyone would feel that someone cared.
When high school rolled around similar things happened in school with fundraising. For sure, lots happened outside of school to celebrate the day. My personal memories of high school Valentine’s days are long gone but I never felt left out, especially because of my family. About this time my youngest sister, the baby of the family, was eagerly learning to read and write. She would pass notes to us that said “God loves you” or “I love you.” What a different life I would have had if my parents had not encouraged all of us to continue our education.
My mom would say that we should show love to one another each day, not just on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or birthdays. When we didn’t get along with someone, her advice was to pray for them and do something nice for them without them knowing what you were doing. We often heard “Kill them with kindness” in our home. This worked to build peaceful hearts.
As you read this blog, think kindly of the many people who helped you reach your educational goals. I hope that you are showered with kindness not just on one or two special days, but all year round.
Adult Basic Education (ABE)
Adults with Other Needs (AON)
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
General Equivalency Diploma (GED®)
License Preparation (LP)