This profile is part of a series highlighting participants of the Urban Education Initiative, the umbrella program for Project Coach at Smith College.
Mariama Jaiteh ‘20 completed her fellowship at Girls Prep Lower East Side, part of the Public Prep network of schools whose leadership team includes Janelle Bradshaw '00, who serves as superintendent, Josie Carbone ‘95, assistant superintendent and Jodie Lowe ‘18, executive assistant to the academic team, in New York City, a school run by Smith alum Janelle Bradshaw '00. At Girls Prep, Mariama broke through the initial barriers of tutoring, and got an insight into how teachers work with and approach students with varying needs and learning styles.
Smith College (SC): Tell us about yourself. Why did you apply for the Urban Ed Scholars program?
I’m a junior studying Computer Science and Data Science. I applied for the Urban Ed Scholars program because I am interested in the intersection of education and technology. I was interested to learn about how teachers worked in the classroom, how they deal with different situations, and how they go about planning lessons for students.
SC: Tell us about the school, your teacher, and what you did in the internship.
I was placed at Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary Charter School in a 4th-grade classroom with two teachers. During the internship, I observed the classroom, assisted the teachers with any task that they needed to be completed and was available if students needed any help. If the students did need help or had questions about what they were learning I would sit with them and go over what they didn’t understand during the lesson.
SC: What’s one highlight from your time in the classroom this January?
One moment during my time at Girls Prep that stood out to me was when one student who never talked to me or asked questions finally approached me. She finally asked me a question about something, but it took time for her to feel comfortable enough to do so. That was a highlight for me because as a teacher you want your students to ask you questions. When they don't it's saddening. Once they do, you feel like they are finally feel comfortable and safe with you.
SC: What surprised you the most?
What surprised me the most was the varying levels that students were in and how teachers handled such different learners. Since there were two teachers in the classroom, they would separate the classroom into two. One teacher would do a mini-lesson and the other would teach the rest of the classroom. The teacher who taught the mini-lesson had a list of students and would pull them aside to go over the topic of the day with them. They were able to focus on the needs of the individual students.
SC: How do you think the experience will impact your future thinking and plans?
Definitely, I want to be in an educational space. I am not sure if that is in the classroom teaching yet. What this experience does make me consider is how students learn and how a teacher can support the educational needs of all their students. Overall, after this experience, I’m more interested in exploring these questions and learning more from educators in the field.
SC: What big idea, project, adventure has your attention? What’s your next play going forward here at Smith?
I have one more year at Smith so I would love to keep being part of the community outreach here at Smith. During my first year and sophomore year, I helped plan Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and taught the Girls Who Code club, but this year I haven’t really been a part of that. I’m hoping that this upcoming fall, I can be more involved in STEM outreach events on campus.