Footnotes - Dept of English Newsletter for Students UWG Home Page

pring 2004 Edition
Volume 5, Number 1

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In January of 2000, Josh Grant began working at the Carrollton Elementary School's After School Program (ASP) as an Assistant Teacher. Considering a career in Childhood Counseling, Josh thought the experience in the elementary school would give him some good experience working with children and a nice sparkle on his resume. What Josh had originally planned to be a one- to two-year working experience has become a four-year period of development. He does not know who has grown more--he or the children.

As his interest has moved from counseling to English, he has still found value in his experiences at ASP. He says that it is more than just being the best player on the kickball team that brings him back each year; it is the environment of constant experiential learning. The elementary school children, fortunately, are still at an age when they care so little about looking cool that they show their passion for learning new things, developing new skills, and impressing the adults around them.

In his attempt to stretch the children's language abilities, Josh has stretched his own. Children wear their emotions for everyone to see, but many of them cannot tell a teacher what they are feeling or why. They are not hiding anything from the teacher; they just have not learned how to put all of their experiences into words. In an attempt to communicate something that they do not know how to say, the children are often forced to create sentences from the words that they know, and when they have trouble creating a sentence, the teachers are there to help them. Kids say the darnedest things because they do not know how to say what they feel or think in any other way. The children put the teachers into the same situation of having to create new sentences when they ask the teachers "simple questions," questions about things about which the teachers have never thought but have assumed they know. Because of the many children who learn in different ways, the teachers not only have to move into territory beyond their reliable scripts of clichés; they have to think of many different ways to explain a single idea.

ASP is a unique environment that has allowed Josh to develop certain social skills and teaching methods that he would not have been able to acquire in a classroom-elementary or college. He works with fifteen to twenty teachers each year and up to two hundred students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. Such an environment has given Josh the opportunity to learn from other teachers how to handle certain situations. The ASP environment also enables him to work with a large number of kids as they develop through their early years. This year's fifth-graders were in kindergarten when he began working at the elementary school, so he and a few other teachers have had the opportunity to watch these fifth-graders grow up and have been able to help them through different stages of their development.

The children also benefit from this environment. ASP prepares them to work with other people; it is where they develop their social skills. The teaching staff, as with the group of children, has a variety of personalities, which gives the children options to hang around the teachers who make them feel most comfortable. Some of the children are away from their families from 7:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening, so the assistant teachers are like alternative parents or older siblings for some of the kids.

For the first half of the program, Josh, along with three other teachers, works in the homework area with about seventy students from all of the grades. Doing homework is not a requirement in ASP and involves no arm-twisting. The children volunteer to be there while their friends go out to play, so the staff is working with children who want to learn and who want the staff's help. The homework area also gives Josh an opportunity to help children who have the same learning difficulties that he had when he was their age. The learning continues during the second half of the program, in which Josh either leads a group of kids in a sports activity, helps another group do an art activity, or teaches some kids how to play chess or card games.

--Josh Grant

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Last updated April 17, 2004