Since August, I have been spending 10% of my time each week at Duncombe Elementary School working in the first grade classrooms. I chose to work in the first grade classrooms for multiple reasons, one of them because my mother is a first grade teacher at Duncombe. (She has been working in the Fort Dodge Community School District for thirty years now!)
First graders are much different than what I am used to working with. Going to Duncombe consistently and forming relationships with this group of students has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. First graders talk…a lot! They are not afraid to tell you anything so you hear a lot about their home lives and what is going on in their NEIGHBORHOOD. You wouldn’t even believe or want to even imagine some of the things they are saying. There is so much an adult can gain and learn from a first grader. I know I sure have in the last nine months.
A little background about Duncombe: it is the only elementary school in Fort Dodge where English-Language-Learners can go to school. As I was arranging my 10% time with my mother and the other first grade teachers, my mom told me that she was going to have three Guatemalan students in her classroom this school year. I was so excited because at that point, I had served two mission trips in Guatemala. One of the students, Kimberly, showed up on the first day of school, and she did not speak one word of English. I knew she was coming from Guatemala, so I brought photos, a blanket, and coffee all of which I had gotten when I was in Guatemala.
All of the photos, the blanket and the coffee comforted Kimberly as she nervous and full of fear earlier. They reminded her of home. Kimberly smiled for the first time that day! Although she ended up being moved to kindergarten because of her English reading/writing capabilities, we still had that connection, and I am still able to check-in on her when I visit at Duncombe. I’ll probably never know what Kimberly’s life was like back in Guatemala, but I do know that I went out of my way to make a connection and break-the-ice with a first grader. I hope now she’s feels more at home in Fort Dodge, Iowa.