Putting theory into practice: getting volunteer experience through a U of T club

*This post was written by Anna Dinissuk, a MEd student studying Developmental Psychology and Education.

Hi there!

I hope everybody had a good start to 2017, and feels prepared to tackle the rest of the year.

This blog post is going to be about how one of my courses from my first semester of graduate school here at OISE has inspired me, and what I’ve been doing to gain more practical experience in the field of education.

Last semester, I took a course called Reading in a Second Language with Professor Esther Geva. Professor Geva is particularly passionate about teaching young children to read, because early literacy development can determine a lot. The logic is that young children won’t like to read if they aren’t good at it, and won’t try to improve their reading skills if reading doesn’t come naturally to them. This leads to poorer readers having more difficulty with their schoolwork as the years progress, and feeling increasingly frustrated with their academic progress.

I decided to gain more experience working with children and teaching young children to read. I hadn’t been very interested in working with children before, since I had been accepted to the MEd in DPE due to my experience working with young adults my age. I was initially a bit confused about where to even start, but I eventually found a U of T club called Working Around The Clock Helping (WATCH). WATCH helps children and families in Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood in a variety of ways.

After some thought, I decided to volunteer for their In-class and After School programs. WATCH’s social media/Facebook person Layla was very helpful in assisting me in figuring out where to get my Vulnerable Sector Screening done, since anybody who wants to work with vulnerable people such as children has to do that (and get a result saying that they have a clean criminal record) before working or volunteering.

I have begun volunteering for the In-class program, and am enjoying the experience so far!

I am helping out during Thursday morning at a Grade 1/2 classroom, helping students read and spell. I also assist the classroom teacher with general administrative tasks. It’s very interesting for me to see the variation in students’ abilities, especially since this is a split class. Some students are very proficient readers, while others are struggling. I hope that every student manages to learn something at school while enjoying the experience, and will try to assist when I can. I’m only volunteering a few hours every Thursday, but hope my being there is helpful.

I am in the process of being able to volunteer for the After School program. WATCH works with the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs, helping this organization get volunteers for their After School programs. I attended a Volunteer Orientation with other U of T students interested in after school volunteering this past Friday, January 27th. I’ll be able to start volunteering for this program once the background check that the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs runs for each potential volunteer goes through. For now, I’m familiarizing myself with this organization’s values, and reading the Volunteer Manual/guide I got during orientation.

I like that the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs strives to make their programs accessible to every family, and that they strive to involve youth at every age. There’s a Youth Program available for teenagers, and past participants of the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs programming are encouraged to get involved through work and volunteer opportunities.

I also attended a Volunteer Social for members of WATCH this past Monday, January 23rd. It was nice to meet some U of T undergraduate students, and become a bit more familiar with another building on campus. I had never visited any club offices or rooms at 21 Sussex Avenue before, and it was good to find out where things are located. I spend a lot of time at OISE, but it’s only one part of U of T St. George. It would be a shame if I just went to OISE and never got to know any other part of campus.

Final Thoughts:

I’m glad I’m getting more experience working with a different age group than I am used to, and hope that my involvement in the lives of these children will be beneficial. I can’t help everybody, but I can try to help some people. OISE offers a lot of courses that DPE students can take that will hopefully inspire students to gain more practical experience, like this one course inspired me.