Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to talk to fourth graders

Your guess is as good as mine! However, I did my best and manage to put together a presentation that was both (at least in my opinion) informative and engaging! So, why do I need to know how to talk to fourth graders?

It started about 3 months ago when I began volunteering at Homei Elementary School. The fourth grade teacher as if I could give a presentation to the 4th graders about America/Oregon and, naturally, I said yes. Time goes by and I don't hear anything. Then a couple of weeks ago I got the request, "Can you give a presentation on this day?"

Let's be honest. I saw this coming and I was glad to say yes.

However, when I got home I sat down and realized, I don't have a CLUE how to give a presentation to fourth graders!!! Help in their classes. Yes, I can do that. Talk to them as just humans and help them with classwork. Yeah, no problem. Stand up in front of a hundred of them and talk about my home country and home state. Oh dear god, what do they want me to say!?!

Better yet, what do I talk about? If I was talking to people my own age I would have been able to figure it out easily enough. Heck, give me 6th graders or high schoolers. No problem. But fourth graders? That was one area I have no experience in. Throughout all my volunteer experience it seems to be the one grade that I keep missing.

So I turned to my good friend, Google. Let me tell you, I don't know what Google's problem that day was or why Google didn't want to tell me about it, but needless to say Google was as useless as the old guy who says "It's dangerous to go alone. Take this!" Scratch that. Google was even more useless. Google didn't have a clue. So I winged it.

By and by I got through it and made a powerpoint. Started with a lot, scrapped a ton, wheedled it down even more. Heck, I even made a "script" that went with it. I'll try to upload it if you're interested in taking a look. 

So we come up to the day before the presentation and I walk into the room I'll be giving a presentation in and it looks like this.

Pretty nerve racking. My first presentation (I guess I shouldn't say that since I've done smaller presentations at high schools back home)  and it's in this giant and really nice lecture hall. No pressure or anything.

Not only that, but my computer actually connects to their system without a hiccup. This is unusual. I have an Asus. Unlike many bigger brands the don't always seamlessly connect with other technology, let alone school technology. (I couldn't get this beast to connect to the projectors ANYWHERE on the UO campus.) So that was awesome.

I go home, go to game, get home 3 hours before my presentation the next day as normal and I haven't prepped for this thing at all past trying to remember words like 感謝際 (kanshasai - Thanksgiving). I'm entirely nervous. I know what it is I'll be saying. I know what I want to say, I just can't remember any of it.

3 hours flies by really fast when you're nervous and have a presentation coming up by the way. Anywho, I arrived, got set up and we started. I was really nervous, seeing those hundred girls lined up out there. Were they going to be bored? Engaged? Did they already like America or have interests in other cultures or would I be planting the seeds? There were so many questions, so many ifs, ands and buts running around in my head.

And then I opened my mouth. Suddenly it didn't matter that my Japanese might not be perfect or that there were a hundred of them. I wanted to tell these girls about my home country and state. I wanted to teach them about it and I wanted to make it engaging and memorable. So while I "stuck" to my script I made it more animated and I improvised. I asked questions I hadn't planned and graciously stumbled through some of the more difficult words.

It was amazing, let me tell you, to see these girls reactions to certain things like, a simple lunch box and how different it is. Or hearing that most first and second graders do not walk to school by themselves. It was also amazing to see what they already knew. I had a good 20 minutes left at the end of my presentation that I opened up to these girls and I answered them to the best of my ability where I could though, admittedly, many of them ended up being questions about things I like in Japan.

Last week I received thank you letters from these students and I can't tell you just how good it feels to receive these letters and to read them and know that, at least in some small part, I have made a difference, that I have sparked some sort of interest. Days like that one really drive home why I want to be a teacher and give me purpose because as much as I'm trying to plant seeds and encouragement and to teach these kids something they are also helping me to grow and become the person and teacher I want to be.


Aunt Mary said...

You are amazing and I am so proud of you..................

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