Keuka College freshman Lauren Mueller has known her entire life that she wants to work with children as a career. The second oldest in her family, Lauren has five younger siblings, and says she has enjoyed helping them learn and grow. So working with youngsters seems like a natural career choice to her.
And though she is an occupational science major, she chose to work in an elementary school classroom for her January Field Period®. But it wasn’t just any classroom in any school—Lauren chose to work with her former teacher in her former elementary school.
“I attended State Road Elementary School (Webster, N.Y.) as a child,” says Lauren. “I reached out to Mrs. [Nancy] Eaton for my Field Period® because she was my second-grade teacher, and has had three of my other siblings in her classroom. And two of my sisters still attend State Road.”
“I was absolutely thrilled and honored that I would be able to assist Lauren by sponsoring her Field Period®,” says Nancy, a member of the Keuka College Class of 1985 and literacy specialist at the school. “It was amazing for me to be able to get to know Lauren as an adult learner after having spent a year with her as a second-grader.”
Fast forward a decade or so, and Nancy says Lauren showed a maturity and innate sense of professionalism, which were immediately evident to her.
“Lauren has the ability to adapt quickly to every environment, and she was comfortable and fit easily into every setting,” says Nancy. “Most of her experiences were in small group settings, but she was also exposed to larger classroom groups. This gave her a rich, varied experience.”
Those experiences and responsibilities included myriad opportunities to be an observer, as well as running a project with a small group of kindergartners.
“Some of the in-between responsibilities were helping teachers with small tasks like cutting something out, organizing, preparing supplies, carrying, repeating directions, cleaning up, helping a child sound out words, handing out stickers, and sharing information,” Lauren adds.
But she says her favorite activity was working with kindergartners on a Valentine’s Day craft.
“I loved getting to interact with them, and watching how they each took on the task in different ways,” says Lauren.
She also spent time assisting Nancy with her literacy students, who, according to the teacher, were comfortable with Lauren right away. In addition, Lauren was able to visit other classrooms, including that of the school’s occupational therapist, Jenn Balash, a member of Keuka College’s Class of 2001.
“We built Lauren’s schedule around Jenn’s and it worked out beautifully,” says Nancy. “I believe that this experience will help guide and enrich Lauren’s career as an OT. I hope she will remember this Field Period® for many years to come, as much as I have appreciated and treasured my Field Period® memories. Keuka College grads stick together!”
After spending time in Nancy’s classroom, Lauren says she learned some things don’t always go as they should.
“I found out that you can plan something out perfectly, but a child might not be ‘feeling it’ that day, so you have to come up with something totally different on the spot,” says Lauren. “I also learned many different teaching strategies, and I could already feel them creeping into my language and technique while working with the kids.”
And those strategies and techniques also helped Lauren learn something about herself.
“If I can be comfortable, flexible, and relaxed, I can accomplish a lot,” says Lauren. “I can open up to people, and learn a lot more from an experience than if I’m shy, too afraid to ask questions, or be myself. From this experience, I solidified that watching children learn and grow provides me with a satisfaction like no other.”