Role Reversal: Lessons Middle-Schoolers Taught Us

Posted by on February 27, 2013

Melissa Kasella and Kristy Carlson didn’t know quite what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to assist in an after-school photography class at the local South Junior High School.

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Wildcat Academy photography class

Attempting to learn their own service learning objectives in a Minnesota School of Business-St. Cloud Global Citizenship class, they agreed to assist teaching middle-schoolers in need of “extra help” the basics of photography as part of a targeted services program in the local school district called “Wildcat Academy.”

In the end, they felt like they learned the lion’s share of the lessons that week.

“The project that Melissa and I had the chance to participate in was a targeted program for students who qualified either with low MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) scores or [through] low-income housing,” explains Kristy Carlson. “Our objectives in the class were to get the students involved and working with other students, also to get the students interested in school in a positive way. Working with the students was a way we had a chance to be another positive leader in their lives.”

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Kristy Carlson at work with students.

Yet both Carlson and Kasella, massage therapy students, found that “keeping students interested” was no simple job.

“There were many challenges in the project that we faced such as getting the kids to listen and cooperate with the instructions the teacher gave,” says Carlson.

Kasella agrees, “The challenging part about this class was just getting them to stay on task and follow the directions. I just tried to be consistent with the rules and give friendly reminders of what our tasks were. My favorite part was seeing what each individual’s interpretation of the assignment for the day was. It really goes to show how differently something can be seen from different people’s perceptions.”

Even given the trials, Carlson and Kasella came away with valuable lessons in a variety of areas.

“I enjoyed having the students teach me what they know about the iPads we were able to work with,” admits Carlson.

On a more serious note, she reflects, “I took away many things from this experience such as: tolerating students who have a hard time paying close attention to rules and details; the importance of being a good parent and how it affects the child in school; how to show the student that what he or she thinks is important and matters; [and] a sense of pride knowing that I only did a little part, but I know it made a big impact on the students’ lives.”

Kasella marvels at the experience. “I learned to be patient and let the kids make mistakes [and] to learn from them. It was also interesting for me to work with some different nationalities.  I come from a very small town and have not had much one-on-one intersection with many other races, or religions for that matter. This was a very eye-opening experience for me, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I feel very fortunate.”

Carlson and Kasella look forward to sharing their story with their Global Citizenship classmates—and explaining how, in this case, the teachers became the students.

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