In November 2014, as students scanned the list of winter term classes, Bailey Johannes spotted one and knew instantly it would be perfect for her. The “Early Childhood Experience” winter term course provides a closer look at the development of young children in the school-based setting. Each Graceland student enrolled in the course received a buddy whom they mentored through activities held on the Graceland campus. Bailey chose the class because she has lots of experience with children and wants to be an elementary school teacher. For the course, GU students were expected to keep a journal, write a final paper, and spend time getting to know the kids during class.
The preschoolers came to Graceland’s campus every morning from schools in Leon. The winter term class lasted for three weeks, and each week a new group of buddies came, except for special days when all buddies came. The buddies and their mentors would start the day in a classroom in the Hampton center where they would chat and color. Katelyn Metcalf, GU student enrolled in the course, says her buddy was shy at first but warmed up to her quickly.
On the second day of class, the buddies and their mentors were excited to swim in the indoor pool in the Hampton Center. At first, all of the kids were scared to jump in the water, but once they were all in, it was impossible to get them out! Katelyn and Bailey both called the pool day a success because swimming in the middle of winter was a treat for all the mentors and buddies.
If it wasn’t a pool day, after coloring time the students would play games in the gym. The Graceland students were responsible for looking after their buddies in the crowded gym. On gym days, the buddies could jump on mats, play with a giant parachute, or shoot air rockets spiraling up to the roof of the Closson center. Other days, the mentors were in charge of the games and had to lead different groups in activities.
When Bailey showed up for class one day, she found out her buddy was absent, so Bailey spent the day observing the other mentors and buddies. Bailey said, “I actually liked spending the day observing how the mentors were with their buddies because it taught me a lot about the kids.”
The days weren’t only fun and games, however. Every mentor experienced difficulty getting their buddies out of their shells. A lot of the buddies were very shy and not interested in the day’s activities upon arrival, but it didn’t take long for their mentors to get them excited about the pool or gym time.
The buddies loved the movie theater day, when the class went to the Coliseum movie theater to watch the Disney movie Brave. Another day that the buddies will remember for a long time was the last day, which had a carnival theme. There was a bounce house, air rockets, basketball, popcorn, and carnival-style games where the buddies could win little knick knacks. Katelyn and Bailey were disappointed it was the last day because they had grown so close to their buddies. Katelyn’s buddy looked up at her and said, “I’ll miss you, Katelyn!” In Katelyn’s eyes, that made the whole class worth it. She said, “These kids have taught me a lot about what it takes to raise a child. I was blessed to have three very well behaved buddies. Every day was a good time with them. I am going to miss these kids so much but I am thankful for the opportunity I had to spend time getting to know the three of them.”
Bailey agrees. “Watching the kids from class to class amazed me. Each class is different in their own way, with their own personality.” Bailey loved the class, but she would change the number of buddies. “I wish I could have had the same kid for all three weeks so that I could have bonded with them more. I loved this class and I really wish it could have lasted longer. I think it would be cool if it was a whole semester long.”
Both students are disappointed the experience is over. Katelyn said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to take a winter term but I am so glad I did. It’s a shame they’re doing away with winter term because this class is very rewarding, not only for the kids but also for the GU students.” Bailey said, “I haven’t done a winter term before but it was so much fun. I can’t wait until I’m a teacher and I can do this everyday.” Katelyn, too, wants to be a teacher, but at the high school level. Bailey and Katelyn will greatly miss their buddies, but are grateful for the teaching experience and unique way to spend their winter.