Although my internship goes on for one more week, this shall be my final blog post because I immediately begin rehearsals for marching band after my last day at Alternatives for Girls. Besides, going into this last week, I have already begun to reflect on my experiences as an intern for the non-profit’s prevention department. I wonder how the lessons I have tried to impart upon the participants will impact their lives, and I have also given thought to what I myself have gained from this experience.
The legacy that any one person can leave when working with children in a truncated time period is always small. At the same time, however, it is impossible to know which moments will remain clear in memory as these children grow older, or possibly build momentum for positive development later on. In other words, I know the gravity of each interaction I have had with my charges, and I have tried to use it wisely. In past blogs, I have described several of my endeavors to help the girls build upon their confidence and perspective on the world. One continual effort that I have not mentioned is to help one girl – let’s call her Alicia – develop her voice. Alicia is very quiet. This is partially because her English language skills are not as advanced as the other participants in the program, but also because she becomes afraid to speak up when she feels threatened or is in front of a group of people.
Throughout our weeks together, I have kept her issues in mind and addressed them whenever I have had the opportunity. If I noticed she was fumbling over how to communicate an idea, I was sure to repeat her thought back to her with the correct conjurations of verbs to help her learn them. When other girls were touching her property and her body without her permission, I took her aside and had her practice saying, “No, stop it! I don’t like that!” I encouraged her to tell me about her weekend each Monday morning so that she’d feel more comfortable sharing the same details with her groupmates that afternoon. Her ability to speak in front of others did improve as the weeks went on, but again, it is truly impossible to know how much I was able bolster her confidence. I hope I did. I hope that, because of my own efforts, or outside of them, all of the girls I worked with go on to be brave, secure, self-loving, compassionate, successful individuals. My small part in their progress is my legacy at Alternatives for Girls, and a very worthwhile one.
What have I personally taken away from this internship? For the most part, I more fully understand what I would be signing up for if I participated in Teach for America – Detroit. I have a better sense of my potential students’ contexts and how to accommodate for them. More generally, I have also developed the ability to be strict, which I struggled with in my previous childcare positions. The group of girls I am working with, though I love them, happen to be the most rambunctious cohort of children that I have ever had to deal with. It has been consistently difficult to motivate them to listen, follow directions, or treat each other kindly. Thus, in order to best serve them, I have had to learn how to assert myself over a screaming crowd, dole out tough love, and give appropriate discipline. As someone who is naturally warm and fun-loving with children, this transition has been hard. However, as a result, I feel more prepared as a future educator. I now think about TFA – Detroit as an opportunity that I could definitely handle. I am so grateful to my girls, and for my time at Alternatives for Girls, for helping discover this strength in myself.