Background of Oakdale PK-8 Elementary School:
Oakdale Elementary is a school in North Highlands under the Twin Rivers Unified School District (TRUSD) and encompasses classes from PreK-8th grade. Over the past two years, Covid-19 has significantly impacted the community at Oakdale, making it difficult for students to assimilate to in-person classroom environments. TRUSD serves approximately 27,000 students in 45 different school sites and primarily students from the underserved communities in Sacramento. Oakdale serves a low-socioeconomic (SES) community, with a high poverty rate, and low school resources. The impact of Covid-19 and lower SES has significantly impacted students' ability to progress in academics and build interpersonal and social skills. Despite these adversities and behavioral challenges in class, Oakdale values a rigorous academic program and building a strong community with families and faculty to ensure that students are provided equal opportunities as their peers from better SES. During our service-learning with the kindergarten class, we developed an understanding that some of the students just need a little extra attention and care to help increase their focus in class and help them regulate their emotions. We learned the value of paying close attention to every student and repeating information, both at home and in school, to the students to truly witness a change in their behavior.
Regulating Emotions & Kindness Workshop:
Throughout the semester we actively reflected on our experiences, and we observed a couple of situations at Oakdale that we could potentially highlight in our presentation. After extensive planning within our group and discussion with the teachers at Oakdale, we proposed a presentation on topics such as regulation of emotions, bullying, and kindness. Though the teachers were invested in all the topics, they believed that kindness was the best option to make a difference in the student’s behaviors.
Taking everything into consideration, we presented our workshop on kindness at Oakdale. The purpose of our workshop is to improve the socialization among the students so they can learn to better regulate their emotions. Faculty members have mentioned that students have a difficult time learning social cues and skills post COVID-19. This has led to many arguments and fights among the students. Many times, students misunderstand the meaning of another student's choice of words or expression. However, with the correct resources, we presented an interactive and visual presentation that highlighted the importance of regulating emotions in an effective manner. The primary purpose of this presentation was to show the students how to respectfully communicate with other students to relay their emotions and needs. Our goal was to broaden and hone the skills needed to effectively socialize in school to improve individual and school environments. Healthy communication will aid with behavior in the classroom, improving class culture and efficiency throughout the day. As the students learn to regulate their own emotions, they can learn to better understand other students in the classroom. We hope to benefit all aspects of the kindergarten class environment by improving socialization skills among the students.
Our Meaning of Service Learning:
By partaking in these service opportunities to work with the Oakdale students to achieve their desired academic goals and creating a workshop to encourage socialization and regulate their emotions, service-learning has also taught service providers the true meaning and intention of these acts of service.
Service-learning provides the opportunity to help service learners engage with a community to develop a relationship with members of the community and expand their civic engagement skills. The qualities such as adaptability and cultural competency have been taught to us as service learners during our community service experience.
Our experience at Oakdale involved guiding students to achieve their reading and math levels, as service learners had to adhere to various teaching styles to ensure each student is learning to their best ability. Adapting to each student’s learning style allows us as service learners to comprehend how to handle change and alter techniques of teaching to better apply to the student’s learning preferences.
Cultural competency was another crucial implementation to involve within our skillset as Oakdale is a very diverse community. This trait encourages the awareness and acceptance of differences within ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures. It also allows us to engage with diverse students by improving our understanding and communication about each student’s upbringing.
Grasping these aspects that were taught through service learning, permits the ability to deepen our critical thinking skills and reflect on our experiences to become better service learners working with people from diverse communities.