Tag: student-athletes

Clinton Rosette seventh-graders ‘teach’ NIU Middle Level majors

crms-6Would you rather have hands for feet – or feet for hands?

Would you rather have the hiccups for the rest of your life – or the feeling that you’re about to sneeze? Would you rather eat brownies for the rest of your life – or cookies?

Nearly 100 seventh-graders from DeKalb’s Clinton Rosette Middle School pondered those questions and more Oct. 25 during a morning of fun, games and, yes, learning at Anderson Hall.

Their visit to the NIU College of Education mostly was spent with Middle Level Teaching and Learning majors, who conceptualized, designed and delivered activities geared toward one goal: teambuilding.

It’s a critical ingredient of successful middle schools, where students typically receive their first exposure to moving individually from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher.

“One of the key concepts of middle school is teambuilding,” says Donna Werderich, acting chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and coordinator of the Middle Level Teaching and Learning (MLTL) program. “Our teacher-licensure candidates are learning how important it is to build community in the classroom and to build positive relationships with one another.”

Amanda Baum, a seventh-grade math teacher at Clinton Rosette, collaborated with Werderich to organize the trip and its events, which also included a question-and-answer time with six NIU Huskie student-athletes

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Amanda Baum, left, and Donna Werderich provide final instructions
to NIU Middle Level Teaching and Learning majors.

Happy to find in Werderich “someone as excited about this opportunity as I was,” Baum foresaw multiple benefits for the first-time endeavor, which is part of the college’s Educate Local initiative.

She also came to campus in advance to present a workshop for the MLTL teacher candidates that addressed the importance of building relationships with students, offered different ways to accomplish that and explored “what happens when you don’t do it.”

“This is a really awesome experience for my students to get out and be in an academic setting with older role models,” Baum said, “and it’s a really neat opportunity for Middle Level teacher candidates to practice on real-life kids.”

Middle school teachers also must understand, and tend to, the social, emotional, physical and cognitive needs of young adolescents, Werderich added.

Bringing the Clinton Rosette students out of their academic classrooms and into Anderson Hall’s gymnasium opened windows into those aspects of young adolescent development, providing NIU’s 15 future teachers with invaluable knowledge.

As the young people rotated through the stations, one activity wrapped them into six-person “human knots” by intertwining their arms. They then had to figure out, working together, how to unlock themselves.

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The word on the card is “syrup.”

In another activity, an index card inscribed with a type of food was taped to each forehead. Students needed to determine the words written on their cards – for example, “spaghetti” or “meatballs” – and then find the classmates whose cards paired with theirs.

Powers of description were on display in a challenge where the seventh-graders stood back-to-back in short rows, one of which had a pre-made Lego construction. The other row had the right Legos to build something identical, but had to rely on the oral instructions without the benefit of sight.

Clinton Rosette Principal Tim Vincent liked what he saw.

Vincent, a three-time alum of the NIU College of Education, often encourages his teachers to visit other classrooms to see how their students function in different settings and subjects. NIU’s exercise demonstrated exactly that for future teachers of English, math, social studies and science.

“Middle school is a different animal,” Vincent said. “Any contact the candidates can have here with students that they are going to be working with in the future is a benefit, no matter what.”

The Huskies are in the early stages of their clinical experiences, currently spending half-days in Huntley, Ill., where they observe teachers in action and learn how to craft lesson plans.

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Sarai Rivera, a junior in the Middle Level Teaching and Learning program, enjoyed her opportunity to take charge.

Sarai Rivera

Sarai Rivera

“Today definitely gives me a chance to have my own soapbox, and to direct the kids the way I would in the classroom,” Rivera said. “This is my first time having my own group, classroom management-wise, and it gives me good insight into how I’m going to manage my classroom.”

Rivera, who plans to teach math, also closely observed group dynamics.

“We can see how different groups of kids work together,” she said. “This gives us an idea of classroom spacing.”

For John Gallione, a future social studies teacher, many of the young faces were familiar ones. The non-traditional student works part time as a one-on-one instructional assistant at Clinton Rosette.

“These are awesome kids. They couldn’t have picked a better group,” Gallione said. “This is a really great opportunity for the Middle Level Teaching and Learning students to practice with bigger groups of kids at a rapid-fire pace. It makes us really have to think on our feet.”

John Gallione

John Gallione

Gallione said the event also enabled Middle Level licensure candidates to link theory to practice.

Not every lesson is fun, he said, so teachers must know how to motivate every student. Teachers cannot “fix their gaze,” he added, and must keep their eyes and attention moving.

“We’re learning how to keep kids engaged in prolonged activities,” he said. “This is huge for when you get into the classroom.”

Tammy Leigh, a clinical placement supervisor who meets with NIU licensure candidates in the field to observe them and reflect with them, called the morning “fantastic.”

“I just love to see how they’re interacting, how their personalities are coming out,” Leigh said. “When I walked in this morning at 8, they were all here to greet me, raring to go.”

NIU students gained hands-on experience with middle-school students, got a feel for the collaboration of co-teaching and forged professional networks with Clinton Rosette, Leigh added.

Sure enough, Vincent – committed to employing “a diverse population of teachers” at Clinton Rosette – is eager to welcome next semester’s crop of student teaching placements from NIU’s Middle Level Teaching and Learning major.

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Rock-Paper-Scissors — with cheerleaders!

“I’m excited about what the program can offer us because of the focused training they’re getting,” he said. “For them to identify their passion as middle school really excites me.”

Beyond the learning opportunities for the NIU students, the Oct. 25 visit proved aspirational for the seventh-graders.

During question-and-answer sessions near the end of the morning, the young people quizzed their temporary teachers on aspects of college life that included online classes, daily schedules and residence hall living.

“It’s just nice to get them on campus,” Vincent said. “There’s only so much we can do at the school to show them that college is possible, because some of them don’t have that model in their families.”

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KNPE helps student-athletes prepare for mentoring positions at District 428’s Clinton Rosette

Paul Wright

Paul Wright

Ask an athlete to talk about a coach, Paul Wright says, and the stories will flow naturally.

Expect the anecdotes to overflow with loving examples of the positive and lasting effects of an additional, caring adult in a young person’s life. Their appreciation is genuine – and touching.

Consequently, athletes make good mentors.

“If they’ve been playing sports for a long time, they’ve developed a love for it and they have a passion for it,” says Wright, NIU’s EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“That also means they’ve had coaches or parents who’ve focused on them, developed them as individuals, supported them, picked them up when they were down,” Wright adds. “Relationships like that are at the heart of mentoring. It’s really an easy connection to make – or a slam dunk, to use a sports analogy.”

NIU’s world-class student-athletes are no exception, of course.

Several volunteer each year to mentor students at DeKalb’s Clinton Rosette Middle School through The Huskie Experience program of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Student-Athlete Academic Support Services.

“Our mission is to develop our student-athletes personally and professionally while engaging in the community and the campus community,” says Rachel Steward, an academic coordinator with SAASS. “I see a lot of tangible skills that our athletes are building. Time management is huge. Patience is a big one. Ultimately, though, I think they like the satisfaction of knowing that they’re making an impact on that next generation that really aspires to be like them.”

crms-signRobin Enders, a counselor at Clinton Rosette and the liaison between the school at NIU, says that her sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders receive wisdom and assistance on homework, arriving on time to class, locker organization, how to approach teachers with questions, the value of higher education and more.

Mentees are chosen through recommendations from parents or teacher, Enders says; sometimes the students ask on their own if they’ve had mentors before or see friends with mentors. If she sees that the Huskie athletes are early in their education, she pairs them with younger children to extend the length of the relationship.

“It’s become a part of the fabric of our school,” Enders says.

“Parents appreciate the opportunity to have another caring adult in their children’s lives,” she adds. “For the NIU student-athletes – and I’ve served as references for them – it’s also been very beneficial. They see that what you put into something is what you get out of it.”

Wright saw another opportunity.

He enjoys a long relationship with Clinton Rosette, where he ran an after-school program focused on youth development and social change through sport. He also frequently connects with staff at Huskie Athletics, who appreciate his 20-year scholarly focus on youth development and social change through sport.

“The Huskie Experience is a great concept; it serves the mission of Athletics to develop their athletes and their social responsibility, and there’s an obvious benefit to the Clinton Rosette kids,” Wright says.

huskie-flag“But Athletics didn’t have a structured approach on the philosophy of mentoring or the best practices to share with their athletes. This is where I was able to offer my support,” he adds. “I talked with Melissa Dawson, the director of SAASS, and she was open to it. She said, ‘We would love to get your insights and recommendations. We built this thing, but how do we improve it?’ ”

Wright created an orientation program to prepare the athletes in “what mentoring is; the do’s and don’ts; the youth development; how to build relationships with kids.” His third annual presentation took place Sept. 11 at Anderson Hall, home of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

Meanwhile, the professor hopes to evaluate the program through data collection and analysis. He encourages graduate students in his KNPE 596: Sport-based Youth Development course to assess the Clinton Rosette program for their class projects, independent studies or theses.

His students attended and observed the Sept. 11 orientation for a close-up look at how mentoring promotes the development of middle-schoolers and college students alike as well as for how to grow and improve such programs.

“It’s an all-around win,” Wright says. “Collaboration creates opportunities.”

Steward and Enders agree.

“NIU is obviously a main focus in the DeKalb community, and I believe that the more we can engage with the community is a benefit for both sides,” Steward says.

“Our student-athletes continually work with youth through camps, clinics and those type of experiences, and they yearn to get more of that on a consistent basis during the school year,” she adds. “For others, it’s leaving their mark on the DeKalb community. When they spend four or five years here, DeKalb is giving a lot to them, and they want to give back.”

Rachel Steward

Rachel Steward

Middle school students offer a perfect avenue: When the Huskies encounter adolescents who “might be hard to get to know,” Steward says, the athletes “keep pulling back the layers” until they uncover something that yields the reward of a breakthrough moment.

“For us, it might be the smallest thing, but for that kid to open up in that way is huge,” she says. “Just to see the relationships evolve over the years is pretty remarkable. Middle-schoolers might not necessarily say that they really enjoy the time they have with their mentors, but secretly on the inside, they do – and the more our student-athletes see that, the better.”

Staff at Clinton Rosette, meanwhile, love to see the smiles on children blessed with mentors.

“It’s just another positive person, like an older brother or sister, someone who reinforces the message of how important school is,” Enders says.

“Whenever I talk to them, they’re usually very excited,” she adds. “They’ll say if they did an art project with their mentor, or if they played a game of basketball. They’ll say, ‘Look what we did!’ and ‘We had so much fun – when’s my mentor coming again?’ It’s really a fun thing to see the kids get so excited.”