By Neil Probst | Dec. 6, 2016
Citizenship and Community: Kaitlin Arp, an undergraduate studying Elementary Special Education and Elementary Education at Auburn University at Montgomery, recently helped students at Prattville Elementary School improve bus behavior through a service learning project, an initiative through which AUM’s College of Education provides community support at partner schools.
Arp, a Chattanooga native who was completing a semester-long practicum at Prattville Elementary, where she studied as a child, is following in the footsteps of her grandmother, who also was a schoolteacher.
Just days into the practicum, Arp learned that five of her students had been kicked off their school buses during the first three weeks of school.
Realizing the need for students to understand the importance of sitting still and remaining quiet, for their access to school, their safety and respect for other riders, she was inspired to help the youngsters improve their behavior through the service learning project.
And while not all of the third- and fourth-grade students she helped seemed to improve, at least one did.
“I really think I got to her,” Arp said. “On the last day, the bus driver wrote me a note, saying the student really did good, she sat down, and she did everything she needed. I was like, ‘She’s getting it.’ ”
Arp served in resource teacher Rebecca Guinn’s classroom of students with special needs throughout the semester, and she hopes to help similar students in the future.
“They’re sweet little kids, and they just get kinda pushed to the side,” she said.
To help the students as they rode to and from home, Arp created a behavioral chart that the youngsters took onto their buses.
The students used the charts as a reminder of behavioral goals and also as a journal for documenting their own actions.
Ultimately, several of Arp’s students learned responsibility by setting personal goals that they used to self-monitor their actions.
“It gave them a chance to really look at their behavior and say, ‘Am I doing what I need to be doing?’ It put them in charge of managing their behavior,” Arp said.
At the same time, the students learned lessons that will benefit them throughout life.
“I wanted them to realize that their behavior is something they are in control of. They can’t control what other people do around them, but they can control how they react to something,” Arp said.
For Arp, the service learning project and practicum provided real-world experience that underscored her classroom learning and taught her flexibility.
“A big thing is realizing what your students need. You can read in a book that you need to teach in one particular way, but your students may not learn the material best that way,” she said.
Arp’s positive learning experience at Prattville Elementary mirrors her appreciation for her entire AUM learning experience.
Arp transferred to AUM from a larger university when she was a freshman. "I didn’t have professors who were one-on-one with me. And they were teaching me how to teach kids, but we never got to actually do it,” Arp said.
“I love it here at AUM because of the smaller classes, and you have one-on-one interaction with your professors.”
(Editor’s note: The Warhawk Spotlight features news about people, projects and programs at AUM that illustrate our Core Values. Need a refresher on our Core Values?)