“It is important for the community to view ACU as a helping community,” says Dr. Rachel Team, Assistant Professor and Director of School Psychology Program. ACU’s School Psychology graduate program is partnering with the Pre-K classrooms in Abilene ISD to provide Social Skills training to the children. Graduate students meet every Monday morning with their assigned Pre-K classes and teach them a social skills lesson (e.g., listening, waiting your turn, asking for help, etc.). They have a lesson and activities planned for each class and they review the previous weeks’ skills. The teachers are present while the graduate students teach the skills and they reiterate the skill throughout the week.
Dr. Team has set this up to provide her students with a chance to experience the school system and classroom management in their first semester of graduate school and to serve the local children. She spoke with several administrators who stated much of their kindergarten students’ first semester was spent learning social skills in order to navigate public school. This took away the teachers’ time to teach academics, so Rachel thought providing the services prior to kindergarten would help them be more successful academically during their kindergarten year.
When asked about the importance of connecting with the community, Rachel said she felt that ACU has so many students and resources to offer Abilene that often go un-utilized because we miss the opportunities. This project is a mutually beneficial partnership for the ACU and AISD students and staff. “This social skills program has full potential to greatly impact our community because we are using these skills to equip these children into becoming the best leaders they can be. When you begin to teach children such valuable lessons at an early age, they will be able to carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives,” says Shannon Webb, a graduate student participating in the program.
So who does she think is being impacted the most through this social skills project? Her students. “They are learning so many things by being a part of two classrooms a week. They better understand child development, classroom management, teaching styles, and the impact of the home environment on students’ skills, to name a few,” she says. Her students frequently comment on how much they enjoy their time with the Pre-K students and how much they are learning from this interaction. Matthew Taylor, another graduate student working on this project, says that he loves going in each week and working with the children. “They are so eager to learn and it is getting me ready for my future profession. I definitely think that it gives me a sense of accomplishment and fuels my passion even more to get out and work with children in a few years.”
Dr. Team says her hope for the future of this project is that they are able to continue to provide these services to the pre-k programs in AISD. “I hope more schools are able to benefit from this partnership and the children we work with will have an easier time adjusting to Kindergarten.”