Take a seat, Simon & Schuster. Move aside Houghton Mifflin. There's a new face in the world of books: the Brewer brothers. Garret and Austin are not only reading books (and loving it), they're also writing and illustrating books of their own. Not something you'd expect from at-risk second graders at an inner city school? Then your expectations are too low.
The brothers Brewer are part of the school development program partnership between Drury University and Boyd/Berry elementary school. For 13 weeks, they worked one-on-one with Drury pre-service teachers to strengthen their reading and writing skills while raising their personal expectations and opening doors to a brighter future.
Austin says he's reading better since working with Drury student Kasey Breedlove. Garret says he writes better now than before Becky Lins entered his world. The proof is in Garret's latest creation - an alphabet book about chocolate that has everything except calories and cavities. Making their own books has been what both brothers have enjoyed most about working with their Drury student teachers. It may be years before they recognize that behind the fun lies a growing array of skills - reading, writing, listening, problem solving, following directions and succeeding. But this experience is an important building block that will help them realize their full potential now and in the future. Their increased test scores, confidence and excitement for learning are evidence of that today.
And tomorrow? Don't rule out a Brewer brothers best-seller.
Becky Lins: Sharing the Excitement
Becky Lins, a 22-year-old elementary education major from Springfield, has been involved in teaching small groups of Boyd/Berry Elementary students since she was a freshman. But as a senior in Fall 2001, Lins was assigned to work one-on-one with Boyd second-grader Garret Brewer. "This is the first time we really worked one-on-one with a student, so it has given us a chance to build a relationship and trust each other," she says.
The results delighted Lins. "I really enjoy spending time with Garret and seeing the progress he's made over the last 13 weeks that we've been here. I enjoy seeing him get excited about reading and writing."
Becky believes experiences like this, known as a practicum, are valuable. "It gives you practice all along. You're not just thrown into it at the end, where you have to try to figure out everything you've learned in books and put it into practice in a classroom. You establish your own teaching style along the way."
Lins' hands-on experiences have taught her a lot. "You have to be flexible. Sometimes the things that you think are going to be the best ideas in the world aren't. It has given me a lot of first-hand practice working with children who need just a little bit of extra practice in reading and writing." Beyond insights into her teaching style, Lins sees and feels other benefits, apparent even that very day at Boyd: "When I walked in, Garret handed me a card he had made. He was so excited to give it to me."
Kasey Breedlove: The Gift Exchange
Drury student Kasey Breedlove and Boyd/Berry second-grader Austin Brewer gave each other special gifts last semester when they teamed up to improve Austin's reading and writing skills as part of Drury's School Development Program. Breedlove, 21, a senior elementary education major from Springfield, sees clearly the value of the gift she has received.
"[Drury's education program] gives me real-life experience in the classroom. I actually get to try out my ideas, lessons and activities on a student," Breedlove explains. "It will help me a ton. I know how I will shape my reading instruction."
But the gift goes beyond knowledge and experience. It shapes the attitude and the heart. "After seeing Austin's reading improve over the course of the semester, I now have the confidence to teach reading in my own classroom. I know that I can do it!"
Breedlove is equally aware of the gift she has given. "I love the positive role I play in the life of Boyd students," she says. "Many of these children come from broken homes and live in the local homeless shelter. They don't receive the attention they need. I can fill this void by showing I care and just listening."
Kasey Breedlove's many personal experiences of watching the trust, affection and inter-personal skills blossom in these kids along with their reading and writing skills is proof that the gift has been received.