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A journal of social practice & professional engagement for the Antioch community

Learning by Doing: Sampson ’16 at Buen Dia Family School in San Francisco, California

Buen Dia Family School prides itself on creating a safe and nurturing environment for preschool children to explore and grow. Due to its location in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood, Buen Dia’s curriculum has a bilingual aspect, and most of the children enrolled can speak at least English and Spanish. The school provides the opportunity for its students to learn about cultures different from their own that they may not have had exposure to previously. For example, students recently took a trip to San Francisco’s Mission Cultural Center, where they were taken on a tour of the Center’s Day of the Dead exhibit. They had the chance to ask questions and examine the different altars at the center, and when they returned to Buen Dia, they were able to celebrate their own deceased loved ones by adding personal keepsakes to an altar at the school.

Buen Dia is similar to Antioch College in that its curriculum is based on a “learn-by-doing” developmental program. The children are given their own responsibilities at the school and are encouraged to gain autonomy from an early age. They can express their individuality through an arts-based curriculum as they learn under the guidance of their teachers.

I work alongside two other teacher’s assistants under the supervision of the head teacher in the transition between morning and afternoon. I am a Teacher’s Assistant to a group of six students. I organize and oversee two art projects each week, many of which reflect weekly learning themes at the school (such as La Familia, Day of the Dead, and Halloween).

I also supervise and organize activities for outside play, dress-up play, story time, and nap time. Each day at Buen Dia tends to follow a specific structure, as children work best and feel most comfortable with a recognizable routine. When I arrive at 12:15 pm, I assist with setting up beds in the nap room and making sure each student has put their lunch away and gone to the bathroom. Then I supervise free play in the backyard until the children leave for nap time. At that point, I clean the backyard and set up new games or activities for the children to participate in when they awake from their naps. After the backyard is set up, my duties vary depending on the day. On Mondays and Thursdays, I set up my art project inside.

On Wednesdays, I begin prepping my snack for the thirty students who are currently enrolled at Buen Dia. On Tuesdays, I help the Head Teacher or any other teachers with various tasks, and on Fridays, I gather the children who will be picked up at 3:00 and help them find and put on their shoes, go to the bathroom, and wait for their guardians. At the end of each day, I assist the other teachers with cleaning the school so we can begin again the next day.

Buen Dia Family School is located in the Mission District of San Francisco, an area with a plethora of cultural diversity that is reflected in the students and teachers at the school. My time at Buen Dia has exposed me to aspects of life that I may not have been able to witness and learn from otherwise. My goals for this co-op placement were a sense of personal growth and an increased understanding of the industry I am working in. Buen Dia has provided a perfect space for me to learn about teaching a group of children who come from a variety of backgrounds, but it has also increased my own awareness of the importance of cultural representation for children of even a very young age. Buen Dia is dedicated to honoring each child’s reality. Being able to speak to these children about their families and traditions and watch them share information with other children has been invaluable.

The way we speak to children at Buen Dia is also vastly different from the ways in which I have heard many adults speak to children. At Buen Dia, we value each child and what they have to say. We listen to them, and you can see in their faces when they speak just how important that is to them. They share their stories and their backgrounds with us, and they learn from each other. This type of listening is simple and easily done, but is often overlooked in the world. The conversation at Buen Dia between teachers as they discuss the day’s activities and strategies for dealing with children who need a little extra help or may be having problems adjusting to life at Buen Dia has also been helpful for me. I feel as if I am truly a valuable member of the staff at Buen Dia, and I realize now that my opinions and suggestions being listened to is just as integral to me as it is to the children we are teaching. I did not come to Buen Dia with the idea of learning about conversation, but what I have learned from both the teachers and the children are skills that I hope to take with me when I leave in December.

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