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by Ron
Mr. Ron Has Many Little Friends

Some of you may have been wondering what I have been doing to keep busy since we settled into a stick house. Being settled has enabled me to participate more fully in a volunteer program with an elementary school that really needs the help. Politicians of both parties claim to have the answers on how to educate our children. Maybe we should all stop playing the blame game and realize that we all (even us seniors) have a responsibility and role in the educational process. Government needs to provide the necessary funds; schools need to use these funds effectively; parents need to provide a good learning home environment and the community needs to be supportive in every way. Community support should also include those of us who no longer have children in school and even snowbirds or full-timers who are only in the area for a few months of the year. We can all help and make a difference.

Unfortunately not all homes are able or willing to provide the environment or support that these little ones need and that's where we can help. For five years (when we have been in the area), I have been involved with Stevenson Elementary in Mesa, Arizona. The school is located in a predominately mobile home area where there are many low income families and transient residents. Most care about their children, but there are some pitiful exceptions and many that do care are severely restricted in their ability to provide the support needed. 

Not all volunteers do the same type of work, but I would like to describe what a typical week is like for me. The school will take what ever time you can spare. My schedule involves six hours a week spent from 9:00 am to 11:00 am every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I work with a dedicated second grade teacher (Amy Drake) and the first hour is spent working with a special reading group. This group is drawn from all the second grade classes in the school and the kids have been identified through testing to have special reading needs. None of them can read at the second grade level due to varying circumstances. On Wednesdays there is a paid bilingual aid that also works with us. On that day the class is divided into three groups called the Lions, Tigers and Bears. Even within this special reading class there are different skill levels of reading. We spend fifteen minutes with each group emphasizing special areas. My area is vocabulary and the words vary with each group. The kids and I work together to identify words that will fit into a sentence and we spend a little time on each word looking for identical letter combinations and sounds. The kids then write the word (chosen from a list of words) into the blank space in the sentence. They take turns reading the words and the sentences. On Thursdays and Fridays, Amy and I work on special projects such as making a little book from mimeographed sheets. They cut and assemble the book (it's theirs to keep and color) and then they read it and learn the words. We also work on a one to one basis with special need students and let them read to us. It's important that we let them do the reading as we help them with the phonetics. The rest of the class is kept busy with independent reading or projects. My second hour is spent with Amy's own second grade class. Several of her students are also in the special reading group and I concentrate on helping them. She wants me to continue working with them on an individual basis even though other things are going on in the class. At other times I will circulate among the entire class when they are taking a test or working on a project. Amy and I are both available as resource people to help with a word or to assist in understanding the assignment.  Even though I work mostly with the special students, the whole class knows me and likes it when I admire their work and listen to them. 

The special reading group
The kids call me Mr. Ron at my request because my last name is too hard to pronounce. They are so appreciative when they have someone who pays attention to them and helps them to sound out a word. I have to keep track of who reads with me in the special group because they all want to read and I don't want to slight anyone. I get little notes upon arriving in class that say, "Mr. Ron,  Can you read with me today?" I get special pictures to put on our refrigerator and lots of hugs. Not only do they want to read, but they are starved for attention. When driving back out to Gold Canyon I can't get the smile off of my face and I actually feel that somehow I made a difference. It's such a reward to see the twinkle in the eyes of a second grader who suddenly realizes that, "I can read." 

Mrs. Drake's regular class
The school year is coming to a close and this article is getting long (I get carried away on this subject). But now is a good time to think about this coming fall. If planning on a winter stay for several months or longer, check immediately upon arrival at the park with the local elementary school. They will help you get started and most have a volunteer coordinator. It's best to get started early because they will need several weeks for a background check and processing. Volunteers are also used outside of the classroom. Perhaps you would like to work in the library or help with the music program. When we stayed at Valle del Oro RV Resort in Mesa, the guys in the woodworking shop made bookcases for the library at this same school where I am volunteering. 

I will look forward to hearing about your experiences and hope you will share them with other Movin' On readers when you log on to the Movin' On Yahoo group. Together we can really be a force and make a difference. 

Here is an email letter received just after this article was posted.

From: Denis <travail04@telus.net>
Subject: Mr.Ron Has Many Little Friends

Salut Ron,
My name is Denis and I am from Cold Lake Alberta. I love your web siteand I just finish reading your "View from the driver's seat" article on "Mr.Ron Has Many Little Friends".  Wow ! you are a good person.  I also volunteer at a local school and I agree with everything you say but Iam going to add a little something of my own to it. 

One of the side benefit to volunteering in a school is that theenergy of the young one rubs off onto the "old" one like us.  That energy is contagious and better then any medication.  Here was my little 2 cents worth. Hope I did not damage the English language, I am a 
French Canadian and English is my second language. I about 6 years my and my wife will be retiring and hit the road justlike you did.  Can't wait, and who knows, maybe we will stop be and sayhello to you and Barb.

Take care
Denis et sa Gang :-)
P.S. Her is our web site. Camping in the Great White North, it is in french but pictures are in the universal language.

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