Maalik Dunkley, ’21 Interns with the East Harlem Tutorial Program, New York City, NY 3/3

Applying What I Learned

Even though I was not a teacher, I believed in what was taught to the children. I wanted to support them and guide their engagement in unfamiliar topics. While, still being someone that they could laugh with, play with, and talk to. I wanted to contribute to the mission of EHTP despite working there for only a short time. At first, this seemed daunting because I was convinced that balancing respect and confidentiality to get 10-year-olds more concerned with Fortnite to learn during summer was impossible. I eventually realized that I needed to apply what I learned.

However, the learning and application process was not linear. During this experience, I would always learn about an alternate way to accomplish my goals. Often I would implement a new thing I learned only to gain insight into something else that I can also apply to my methodology.

The most I had to work was during the ELA portion of the program, which was taught by the previously mentioned Mrs. Jackie. For this class, the students were tasked with reading Mildred D Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. When I learned this, I was surprised and impressed that students as young as them would be ready for work by Taylor, but I was also worried because I was afraid that elements of the book would go over their heads because they are not mature enough to appreciate it. Partially, I was correct. During classes, students were restless, sometimes despondent, and some even refused to do the work. However, I incorrectly assumed that this was because they could not handle what was in front of them. Some days the kids would be very attentive, willfully participate in class, and sometimes spark thoughtful discussions from the readings. From these moments I realized my own prejudice against children despite being young myself and I was able to witness a fundamental aspect of teaching.

The reason they were sometimes so difficult was that it was Summer Vacation. I don’t think I need to explain why Summer Vacation is so important for a student. Such a simple explanation is important because it does not belittle the students’ ability to perform academically and reintroduces them with the potential to learn. I believe this revelation gives insight into something important teachers must do. They must understand the context of the students that they teach. Without doing this, teachers become too vindictive and fail to truly help their students learn. Teaching is a hard job, so they must work hard to do it properly. Thankfully, all the teachers I met at EHTP did this. It was now my turn to participate in this work.

I then understood the importance of my job. Outwardly, an aid to a teacher may seem unimportant but the proximity I share with children makes it significant. In service work, every member of the body is important to the organization in achieving its goal. As a member of the staff, upholding the mission of EHTP is beyond only my own conviction—it is also my duty. I am also a valuable resource for the development of these children. I began practicing the adaptive and interpersonal teaching that I saw others do. I began asking the kids questions and reminding them of the values of EHTP’s scholar programs. I had to contemplate how I would approach them, how I would encourage them to do work, and show them how I would show that I cared. This increased investment would go on to help me discern the important practices of EHTP—which I have previously explained.

A picture of me drawn by a Student.

Eventually, I would see the kids grow to like the material taught and enjoy their time at the Summer Program. Although I knew that I was helping, I still only viewed myself as an extension of EHTP’s mission. However, when I was showered with gratitude from children I only met a month ago, I was reminded of the importance of this interpersonal work. I became proud and happy. During this Summer, I grew with them. I adapted, matured, and recognized my own status because I was so invested in these students. Therefore, teaching should also help me as a teacher. As I saw and experienced the tangible effects of my involvement, my courage and faith in this work increased. I was not just helping but also doing something good.

The Thank You Poster created by my class. 

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