The Power of a Field Trip

By Holly O’Hara, 2017-18 Literacy First tutor

More often than not, Literacy First tutors gain insights that are not necessarily limited by the time they spend with their students in the classroom.  Literacy First tutors become part of the community of the schools where they serve – they’re around five days a week, and in addition, often supplement their service hours by volunteering additional time at those schools. Holly O’Hara is a 2017-18 first-year tutor with Literacy First.  Recently, she shared a revelation she had on a school bus….

Yesterday, my fellow tutor and I had the opportunity to go on a field trip with the second graders at our campus. I hadn’t been on one all year, so I jumped at the chance (even if it meant chaperoning 50 second graders for three hours). I have a special bond with the English second-grade class at my campus: both of my second-grade students in the class have been on my Literacy First caseload since the beginning of the year. I was excited to spend time with the Spanish second-grade classes as well, since I see a few of them every day in our classroom.

I didn’t think the bus ride to and from the Paramount Theater would be my favorite part of the trip, but the memories I have of those noisy, bumpy, hot rides are surprisingly significant. As we chugged down I-35 South, the kids were chatting to each other, singing along to the songs on the bus radio, and making predictions about the content of the play we were about to see.

But as we started to pass UT Austin on our right, the energy of the bus changed. One of the second-grade teachers put up the Hook em’ Horns hand sign. The kids excitedly mimicked him, then glued their eyes to the windows, pointing out different parts of the university. I heard kids talking about how they wanted to go to UT someday, how they knew different people who had attended or wanted to attend, how they’d like to go to a Longhorns football or baseball game.

I sat, watching how enamored they were, and I was moved. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout my first year of service is the importance of representation and exposure for our students. Giving them opportunities to walk around a college campus (like they’ve done on a previous field trip), and to dream about going to college is so important. I was impressed that they even knew about college and what it actually was – I definitely didn’t when I was their age. They get so excited about a big dream like going to college, and I loved seeing the pure happiness they felt when talking about it.

On the ride home, we passed the Texas state capitol. Their teacher pointed and told them to look at it. They talked about how cool it was to see the Statue of Liberty (I had to step in and correct them on that one) and how big the building was.

Did they know exactly what college was or what it means to go to UT for school? All right, probably not, but the sheer exposure to the campus and what it meant to them is significant. Hearing their excited chatter on the bus yesterday was a great experience for me as a mentor who cares about them and their future success. I hope the seeds of getting excited about education grow in them in the years to come, and that they continue to see the value of going to college.

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