From: Annie McDevitt
Submit: Post Field Note
Date: 21 Oct 1996
Remote Name: mingong-mac-20.ucsc.edu
Victor, 6th grade, M.; Norma 5th grade, F.
Monday, October7 Our first full day at Barrios Unidos was sort of overwhelming. I felt at a loss as to what I was supposed to be doing there. I am used to a certain kind of structured teaching environment and it will take time to get used to this.I'm used to a teacher being in control and I'm used to knowing roughly what is going to happen when. Anyway, I spent time working with Norma on the computer. At one point we came across a game, "Minesweeper", which neither one of us understood. Luckily, Victor was next to us and he explained the game. It was very helpful because he was able to explain it in english for me and spanish for Norma. I have some minimal spanish capabilities which I enjoy using with the kids, so I was able to communicate on a basic level. But it was way beyond my level to attempt to explain this game. He explained the procedure, though the game seemed pretty pointless, and then Norma and I played for a while. The game seemed pointless because it didn't seem like there was much educational value to it. It was a game which required pretty much no skill, just luck, at least as far as we could tell.
It felt sort of strange to me to ask Victor to explain the game. I felt bad that I didn't know how to explain it myself. I felt like he might resent having to teach us, that I was taking away from his time to have fun. However, he seemed to enjoy, or at least not mind helping us out. Maybe it was good for him to learn to teach others. Maybe it gave him a sense of accomplishment. Norma seemed to feel comfortable with the situation and certainly was better able to understand V. than she could understand me.
I noticed these events because I'm trying to get a feel for what I am doing, what my purpose is in my time and Barrios Unidos. I'm trying to find methods that work and are helpful to the kids. Asking other kids to help when I don't know how to do something seems beneficial to everyone involved. However, it just seems counterintuitive after all my years in the classroom where the adults were the authority. I don't think I would have felt strange if Maurice, the adult site coordinator, had showed us how to play. I think even if one of my class mates had showed us what to do, it would have seemed strange at first because I'm so unsused to the concept of cooperative learning.