Danielle Johnson walked to the front of the room and turned to face her classmates. With emotion, the seventh grade student rehearsed her part, describing how she was “surrounded” in daily life by people who smoked.
“I don’t feel like dying because of the stupidity of people around me,” she said.
Johnson was one of 48 students from Springfield, Mass., Duggan Middle School’s social studies and science classes who recently traveled to UMass Amherst’s College of Education to present to students in Dr. Robert Maloy’s Tutoring Enrichment Assistance Models for Schools (TEAMS) class a series of two-voice poems and public service announcements they had written.
In Furcolo Hall, minutes before the 4 p.m. presentation was about to begin, Natalie Velez and Jaslee DelValle paused from rehearsing DelValle’s poem, “Boxer and Judge,” to explain the background and content of the day’s performances.
“Our classes studied ancient Greece and the Olympics,” said DelValle, “and we had to write two-voice poems about that.”
“That’s two different perspectives,” explained Velez, who wrote a poem titled “Olympics Now and Then.” “We talk about both things and compare them to each other. Jaslee reads a line then I read a line. Sometimes we talk together. You have to make sense of both things. It’s like two voices at the same time.”
Moments later, Duggan Middle School’s 6th grade social studies teacher Kristen Bouley (M.Ed. 2007) led the middle school students into two classrooms where the graduate students waited. In room 128, nineteen presentations took place, beginning with Velez’ “Olympics Then and Now” and ending with “Students Then and Now” written by Kiana Martinez, with a little stage fright, a bit of laughter and drama, and a lot of applause in between.
“Our students wrote two-voice poems and PSAs for their summative assessment pieces for our interdisciplinary learning expedition on the Olympics,” said Bouley. “From a science perspective, students studied the human body and the effects of drugs and outside influences. From a social studies perspective, students studied Ancient Greece and the reasons why the Olympics became a part of their religious traditions. We have been studying these topics through a variety of lenses since February. As our final product for this unit, we decided to have the students pick topics they felt passionately about and develop their two-voice poems and public service announcements.”
The teachers also decided that by performing their works, the middle school students would gain valuable experience.
“After a long discussion, Sara (Tourscher) and I decided that it would be best to perform for college students who were either interested in being teachers or were familiar with the subject matter being presented,” said Bouley. “The authenticity of the audience would push our students to create high quality work, knowing that their performances would be judged by people who cared about the subject.”
And how did the students assess their experience at the College of Education?
“They were excited and proud of themselves for taking the positive risk to perform in front of the college students. They kept saying, ‘I was so nervous, but I did really well once I got up there!’" Bouley said.
Velez and DelValle saw benefits, too.
“I think reading in front of the college students was important,” said DelValle. “It makes us more courageous and confident to say it in front of people you barely know.”
Both students felt that the afternoon on campus, which included a tour and a meal in the Worcester Dining Commons, was time well-spent.
“I was planning to go to this school anyway,” said DelValle. Velez laughed and said that she and DeValle intended to do everything together, including attending UMass Amherst.
“This school has it all,” she said.
The poems and public service announcements were written by students Michael Dones, Tiffany LaPointe, Amanda Luther, Tarea Tart, Juan Sanchez, Gian Perez, Jamal Douglas, Shandaliz Santa, Justin Morgan, Kacey Miles, Marquise Godfrey Moran, William Robles, Jr., Christina Leung, Robert Parent, Carlos Arroyo, Abyancca Curtis, Joseph McKee, Akien Martin, Sadiyyah Muhammad, Annielu Arroyo, DaQuan Jones, Shariah Garcia, Jose Garcia, Lincoln Edwards, Shamiyah Allen, Justin Diaz, Will Rivera, Selena Toro Brown, Roberto Felix, Patrick McDonald, Raven Durant, Eddie Alicea, Nighee Eddington, Andrea Candalario, Joi Mock, Sarah Mercado, Keseniya Kovalenko, Tyasha Johnson-Wimberly, Roberto Felix, Andrea Candalario, Arycelis Torres, Edlian Velez, Ahjenay Santana, LaQuasha King, Cody Thompson, Kyler Messinger, and as previously noted, Martinez, Velez, DelValle and Johnson.
Teachers from Duggan Middle School who worked on the project and coached the students during the performances in Furcolo Hall were Sara Tourscher (M.Ed. 2008), Jason Walas (M.Ed. 2007) and Bouley. Tourcher was a member of the College of Education’s Bridges to the Future pathway. Walas and Bouley were in the 180 Days in Springfield pathway. Duggan Middle School’s English Language Arts teacher, Anne Kelleher, also assisted with the program and the performances.
For more than 20 years, the College of Education’s TEAMS project has placed undergraduate and graduate students from College of Education courses in tutoring situations in Springfield schools. The project aims to improve school performance among K-12 students and increase knowledge of teaching as a career among college tutors.