January 8th, 2013
Sarah Kesty is a special education resource specialist at an elementary school in Sacramento, California and is trained to implement the RedRover Readers curriculum. She gives up her lunches on Fridays to visit multiple classrooms on her campus and implement the curriculum.
We interviewed Sarah recently about her experiences with the program she says has the power to “prevent future problems like animal abuse and neglect by educating and empowering youth.”
RedRover: What changes have you seen in the students?
Sarah: These students have made gains in their abilities to take others’ perspectives and to critically think. These skills support reading comprehension. Students are excited to connect the stories to their own lives and connect the stories to other text selections.
RedRover: How did the students react to the curriculum?
Sarah: Students are engaged and excited. They love hearing the stories and are genuinely relieved when each character’s situation is resolved.
RedRover: What potential do you see for RedRover Readers?
Sarah: RedRover Readers’ approach is unique and effective, and the program is welcomed by teachers, meaning it has the potential to reach all students. After one lesson, teachers realize the impact on both student interactions (if they’re empathetic in general, they will have better conflict resolution/avoidance skills) and reading comprehension. The RedRover Readers curriculum changes students’ approach to text by putting them in the stories: “What would you do…?” “What/why do you think…?” This approach empowers all students to participate because no answer is wrong or dumb. It validates that the students are thinkers, not just machines who memorize and learn.
RedRover: Why should donors support the RedRover Readers?
Sarah: Reading a book and asking questions seems so simple. Teachers do this every day. But the right types of questions combined with a non-judging reader/listener result in lasting learning and growth.
RedRover: How has the RedRover Readers curriculum changed your perspective about teaching?
Sarah: I now feel comfortable trusting children to make ethical decisions. In fact, I’ve come to reflect on the more common preaching/indoctrinating method. I’ve found that honest conversations that explore all bits of reality reach students much more effectively; real life is not black and white, right and wrong – it’s powerful to be “real” and let the students be real about their interactions with and observations of animals. Amazingly, they independently come to a compassionate conclusion, one based on their real lives so it’s much more likely to stick with them. I like that the RedRover Readers utilizes the power of peer modeling; when children hear one another take compassionate approaches, they see that it’s possible for them too. They’re not being told what to do, what to think. They’re allowed to decide for themselves, and I was so inspired to see that they always choose compassion.
RedRover: How would you describe the RedRover Readers curriculum?
Sarah: Empowering, long-lasting, thought-provoking, profound, effective.