Student Voices: From 3 to 3

Hello!

My name is Fernanda, and I am a fourth year English, linguistics, and classical civilizations student at the University of Toronto. Last semester, I had the privilege of being a From 3 to 3 volunteer who was in charge of reading pre selected literature to groups of Kindergarten children once a week for three hours. Initially, I became interested in volunteering at the CCP because I wanted to gain teaching experience in an elementary school classroom to support my development towards becoming a special education teacher.

What I loved about the CCP was that they had many opportunities to choose from that would allow me to get involved in the community. They have programs for volunteering with a range of age groups, and are very flexible in terms of scheduling and commitment duration. Also, the staff are very friendly! They were always willing to help if you had any questions or needed support during the experience. I have always enjoyed volunteering, so it was great to know that there was a place at the university where I could engage in my community.

During my experience, I especially enjoyed the orientation day. I appreciated how we were so well prepared for the position, how we got to meet individuals who were beginning a similar experience, and how we were taught about intercultural learning. Because of my experience, I have a new interest in helping children who come to Canada as English second language learners. During the semester, I would arrive at the school and help the teachers with step up, as well as welcome the kids into the classroom. It was interesting to see how the teacher managed the kids, and what strategies she used to teach them. As she taught the class, I would take a small group of kids to part of the classroom to begin reading. The experience gave me a new appreciation for reading, especially since it was very rewarding to see the kids engaging in the stories. After I read the stories, my favorite part was interacting with the kids, asking their opinions about the stories, and listening to their ideas. I realized just how much I love being in the classroom.

Overall, the experience was one of my favorite parts of the term. I would highly recommend participating in From 3 to 3, or in any other of the CCP programs to gain some insights about the work that you would like to do in the future, to build positive relationships, and develop practical skills such as communication and team work.

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My Experiences with the CCP in First Year

Written by Vivian Ngo

Thinking back, it was really exciting to start school at UofT. The beautiful campus was something that left me in awe. Exploring magnificent buildings, taking in the gorgeous outdoor spaces on campus, and that sense of freedom that comes with being in post-secondary truly was a thrill. As excited as I was, there was a part of me that felt university life will be spent in isolation. I learnt how to get to my classes, where to go for help, and even met new friends in my classes but I later realized I was actually hoping to find a community at my new school. I wanted to be a part of the UofT community.

My good friend, Vicky La, introduced me to the many opportunities that were available at the CCP. There were so many different ways to represent my new school all around the city. I signed up to participate in Alternative Reading Week (ARW) that was being held during reading week in February.

I was placed on the ARW waiting list and ended up getting assigned to a project called ‘It’s Me to We’ hosted by an organization known as Dress for Success. Surprisingly, Dress for Success was located very close to campus and allowed for my fellow team and I to get to know our surrounding neighbourhood.

On the first day during ARW’s official launch, I met with my fellow team members who were also in the same project as me. We were a group of six who easily got along with each other and became friends.

As a team, we learnt Dress for Success’ purpose was to help empower women through providing professional attire to allow them to seek employment. Not everyone can seek employment and show up for an interview because of their lack of access to professional attire which is why Dress for Success accepts clothing donations to address this need.

Our job as ARW volunteers was to lift boxes of clothing, organize them and to place prices on them. As tedious as it sounds, it was actually quite enjoyable. We got to learn more about each other in our team during that time and witness firsthand how a community interacts.

There were clients who needed help to find employment; there were a group of friendly staff who were willing to dedicate themselves to help run Dress for Success, there were donators who willingly donated their lightly used clothing and lastly, there were volunteers who willingly used their time to help in any way possible.

It was great being able to represent our school in our community through ARW. At the same time, I realized I was a part of a community at my school. I was a part of a team of fellow students that was dedicated to learning by being engaged with our community.

After this experience, I was motivated to learn more about the other programs offered by the CCP.

This leads me to where I am now! Starting this September, I will have the chance to volunteer in a classroom with kindergarten students as a ‘From 3 to 3’ tutor and to start my trainings and meetings as a project leader to prepare for next year’s ARW! Needless to say, I’m excited and thankful for the opportunities that the CCP offers.

From 3 to 3 Reflection by Courtney Villeneuve

Going into a situation where you don’t know anyone is always going to be uncomfortable, so I was understandably nervous on my first day as a From 3 to 3 tutor in a junior/senior kindergarten classroom. All these children—not to mention the teacher—were expecting me to be a competent, confident leader, and share my knowledge and love of reading with them. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was rather humorously surprised by the tiny size of the children I was tutoring. I don’t remember ever being that small! I expected to have to work to build trust with the children and instructor, and generally lower my expectations about what they would be able to accomplish.

I was extremely pleased with my experience on my first day, and subsequent sessions. The teacher I was assigned to work with had excellent control over the classroom, and knew how to engage students and help them learn, no matter the concept. I was given a specific list of children to read with as priority, and each of my groups has shown significant progress in their mastery of the English language along with story retelling and understanding. The bonds between the pupils and I were established quickly, as after one week some of the girls were coming up to me and asking if I could come back every day!

I don’t have aspirations of becoming a teacher, but this experience has proved invaluable in many other ways. First, it has reinforced in my mind the need for patience in all things. Whether it was waiting for the streetcar to take me to the elementary school on a freezing morning, or waiting for a child to give me an answer when it seemed so obvious to me, taking a deep breath and counting to three yielded worthwhile results. Second, I now have a better understanding of the struggles that these children are facing trying to learn English when they may not even be confident in their first language. I lived abroad in high school and quickly learned Portuguese, but not without countless errors. The children who are coming to school with no exposure to English outside the classroom and work hard every day to try and make sense of the puzzle from this foreign language. Finally, as I would like to work in public policy in the future, this first-hand exposure to the workings of Ontario’s education system has proved very valuable. Understanding policy issues from a financial or legal standpoint is useful, but being on the ground and making sense of the way schools work in practice is priceless.

I am very excited to continue my work in the same classroom this semester. It has been truly a highlight of my week to spend a few hours with children who adore me just for being there, and knowing that my work is making a difference in their lives.

Thank you Courney for your reflection!

Story Time with Aneel Sampat, From 3 to 3

photo%203It has been four weeks since I began volunteering at my school’s From 3 to 3 program. I have managed to settle in quite easily thanks to the wonderful group of kids in my class. However, I did have a bit of a rough start. The first day I walked into the classroom the teacher was on her way out because an emergency. Her daughter had chickenpox! Before she left she said, “Here is a class list. Here are two books. Kids, Mr. Sampat, Mr. S., is going to take some of you to the library to read. Good luck!” And, she was gone.

So, there I was, 6ft1 with a beard as thick as my index finger, having virtually no experience around children, surrounded by kids none-taller than my hips. A room of upturned faces bearing quiet smiles that quickly turned away once they were seen. At the beginning the morning’s readings or sentence forming games, from their individually labelled Ziploc bags, I decided to try crouching to talk to the closest group of three kids. I asked, “Would you like to go the library to read?” One of the kids nodded, trying to steal glances at the books in my hand (The Very Busy Spider and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!). Could you show me where the library is? And so we went. Three brightly clad kids with shoes that lit up when they walked, tentatively, but with their destination in mind. Constantly checking to see that I was following, thumb in the mouth of one, one looking like he just saw a ghost, eyes wide open, mouth like an ‘O’, and one with a smile that could light up a room.

photo%202I got through the entire class. The stories were enjoyed by most. That first day I learned quite a bit. First, some kids were terribly distracted around certain others. Incessant giggles, running away from the table, tossing themselves into other chairs and refusing to move. I made the mistake of mixing some seniors with juniors. By week three I sorted out who could go with who by watching how they interacted with each other in the classroom during playtime, snack-time and music. Also, sitting on the same level as the kids really helps. Closer to the ground they are, the more comfortable they feel. So, I avoid adult size chairs and kneel with them at a table, or we sit in a circle on the carpet. Second, lots of hand movements, sound effects and different voices (high and low) could do a world of wonders for keeping the kids focused on the story I was reading. Plus, they were less likely to squirm around or wander off searching for whatever treasures the library had to offer. It takes at least two or three readings to figure out how to tell a story, so I always switch up the order of who goes first one week and the next and so forth. Then, everyone gets the benefit of a good story sometime.

Third, though you might have two books (unless they’re really short) it’s best to give the kids a choice and read only one. It helps them stay engaged. If they want to turn the pages, I let them go ahead. There’s one girl who always wants to turn the page, and she dictates an order so everybody else in the group gets a turn too. If I forget and turn it myself out of order, she frowns a little the makes me turn back, or I never hear the end of how I unfair it was that I skipped so-and-so’s turn. Fourth, and I’ll make this my final point, if I’m enthusiastic and happy, the kids are enthusiastic and happy. They have fun. They may ramble and make some crazy answers to the questions, but they always leave wanting to hear more.

photo%201Everyday I come in, now that they know me, they smile and say hello or wave. They tell me about their weekends, what they did last week. They ask to go first to the library. They ask me to come back in the afternoon or tomorrow or every day. When I tell them I have to go to school, they giggle and say that I don’t need to. I’m too old. That they want to go to university too. They just seem so caught up in the fun of everything that I end up getting caught alongside them. The hours fly by and I’m kind of excited to figure out how I’m going to make it better next week. I have so much more experiences to write about, but I’ve written quite a bit already. The atmosphere of sheer happiness that encompasses my Tuesday mornings makes this an immensely enjoyable experience. By the time I leave for class, trudging in my winter gear and overly heavy backpack to Victoria Park station, I have no worries about anything. Last week, I was not even bitter about the damn cold.  Just glad to be doing this.

 

Written by Aneel Sampat