Walking in the building, I see a classroom full of Latino children sitting at the table looking at the pictures in the book. The teacher is speaking with one of the student’s mother about an upcoming fieldtrip to the aquarium. The teacher looks to be Latina, but she is speaking in English to the mother, who is Latina. There is also a teacher’s aide in the classroom, who is also Latina. I am the only black person in the classroom, and another student from Bryn Mawr, who is the only white person. I was anxious to see how the students would respond to us since we were clearly outsiders. I thought that this would be the first challenge, however it was not. The students were only 3-5 years old, so they did not really pay attention to color. This reminded me of the fishbowl activity where a question was posed of when should students learn about race. I do not think that 3-5 years old is that age.
My placement is at Sunnyside Elementary in Philly. I'm in a third grade class with Ms. Williams (African-American), who's been teaching at this school for several years. She has 22 students: primarily black, and with several hispanic students; there are more boys than girls in the classroom, and they're all about 8-9 years old. Ms. Williams has a classroom aide, Ms. Blue (African-American and Muslim), and one of the students has a therapeutic aid, Ms. Green (white). Their schedule includes a morning activity, a block of reading, and a block of math. The students' desks are organized into small groups of 4-5 around the classroom. As for student leadership, some students are assigned to be team captains, and messengers, and these roles rotate weekly.
The classroom itself is very bright and colorful with lots of different and nicely designed materials on the walls revolved around different subjects like spelling, grammar, and literature themes. They have specific places to leave their coats and backpacks, writing utensils, a writing corner, a space in the front with the smartboard and a rug, and another space in the back with a rug. One of the behavior tools in the classroom is hanging on a door in the classroom, with clothespins labeled with each student's name. Throughout the day, the students might move their pin up and down the sign to reflect their behavior, e.g. “good day, ready to learn, think about it”.
I am doing my placement at a preschool literacy program in M, a large town that has a sizeable Latino population, and where many residents are lower class. The preschool class is part of a larger organization that provides different services, like social workers, legal support, language lessons for adults, and after school programs to mostly Latino community members. The preschool class that I am working in has about 20 students, about a quarter of whom are 3 year olds, and the rest of whom are “pre-kindergarten” age. As far as I can tell, all of these students come from families where Spanish is the dominant language at home. The program is free, but the teacher, Mrs. H, explained to me, “I tell the moms it’s not free. They have to put in the work supporting their children and helping them to learn.” If the family is not willing to be involved, read to the kids, etc., the child cannot stay in the program.
My placement is at a public K-8 school in Philadelphia, and I have been there twice already. The first day of my placement was one of the most overwhelming mornings of my life. The school is in a nice location and I had a lovely walk from Suburban Station to the school. The school looks like any other school from the outside, but inside it is rundown and institutional-looking.The school is predominately African-American, and many of the students are low-income.
I am in a third-grade classroom. The class only has 18 students, and I was surprised at how small the class was. However, its small size does not mean that this is an easy class. Several of the students have behavioral issues and some have learning disabilities. The students that act out distract the other students from their work, and the teacher has no productive way of dealing with these kids other than yelling at them and sending them out of the room. The students who are behind in learning cannot keep up with the rest of the class, and the students who are advanced do not get any challenges or any extra attention from the teacher because she is so busy trying to help kids who are behind. Because of the PSSA and the extreme pressure on the school to raise test scores, the teacher is forced to teach to the test and teach them how to answer the specific questions instead of focusing on more general skills or creative thinking. The test has things like plot structure and poetry on it, which is way too challenging for some of the kids who are reading on about a first grade level.
My praxis is at Adelante. Adelante is a middle school after school program that meets on the weekends. It focuses on preparing students and families for college and promotes interest in the STEM fields. The all of the students in this program identify as Hispanic and the majority of them go to the same middle school except for one or two students from the neighboring middle school.
It is hard for me to think about the possibilities and challenges for this program because I have only actually been to the site once. However, from what I witnessed, I think that one of the challenges will be getting the students to interact with other students outside of their already established friend groups.
I think that one of the possibilities is that even though the program focuses on getting the students interested in STEM there is a chance to use the dialogic method that Freire refered to. While the program consists of having the students do a different physics project every other week, I think the coordinator has set up the experiments in a way that emphasizes the dialogic method because the experiments involve the a students discussing what they observe with each other and the instructor.
Last week I had my first praxis placement at a public middle school in Philadelphia. My role is to participate in a weekly enrichment session for around a dozen students from fifth through eighth grade classes. I basically received the program/role from another Haverford student who has been developing and growing it over the past two years. Their focus has been, roughly, on discussing issues like civics and politics while working on building argumentation skills. My working goal for the semester in general is to work with this group of students who have already spent a lot of time learning about "leadership" and politics to think about how to build power and organize toward something as a group.
Originally, I was supposed to come and observe the class while another person led them in some kind of lesson/activity. It turned out that the person who was supposed to come couldn't make it and five minutes to ten I was told I'd be leading the class. "Oy," I thought to myself. I didn't have a lesson plan or any plan really. I had been excited to observe the students and the adult in the room to get a sense of how they functioned together, what the group dynamics were like, what kinds of things they were interested in. But I had to improvise--and it ended up being fine.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe swept me away with each read, immersing my childood imagination in enchanted lands full of talking creatures, magic, and a few kids just like me. I grew up engaging with this classic story, but I hadn’t realized just how important it may have been in cultivating curiosity about my very own ecological world. Narnia, while acting as a “ditch” for many readers like myself over the years, may have also been a “ditch” within the story itself for the four Pevensie children. The ecological thought presented in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is complex and crucial to the plot—the environment almost acts as a character that grows and changes throughout the story. Through an interpretive reading of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the role of the environment in this classic tale can be further unpacked.
I’ve been in my placement this entire year at a special admit public high school in Philadelphia, which is great, as it has allowed me to watch and grow with the students in the two classes I work with. The school is highly-regarded, in Philadelphia and beyond, for its progressive, student-centered approach to teaching and learning. Specifically, I’ve been participating in two 9th grade African American history courses that have been covering an enormous amount of interesting material from present-day stereotypes of the African continent to the way cultural perceptions of race influenced and were influenced by laws relating to slavery to ways of making sense in and across societies.
This semester, my mentor teacher is using a special grant that she applied for and received to engage with her students in a special “Semester of Service.” The two classes are both in the process of learning, designing, and carrying out semester long service projects in the Philadelphia community and are striving to tie the work they do to Philadelphia history. I am extremely excited about this project because asset-based, meaningful service-learning is a big interest of mine and a great way, I think, for students to engage in conversations about race, class, privilege, and what it means to “help” people versus “collaborate and co-create” with them.
Besides the fact that I really enjoyed reading the dialogue that Shor and Freire had, I felt that the idea of implementing a ‘Dialogical Method’ of teaching is an effective way to show students that they’re indeed at the center of their own education. Freire explains that dialogue is essential for development. Humans, are different than other intelligent organisms because we have the ability to communicate and assure each other and ourselves in our knowledge; “we are able to know that we know.” (99). A theme in the reading that really stuck out to me was the idea of empowerment and who is the center of knowledge. In lecture-based environment’s, teachers are seen as the center of knowledge where the educator is to teach the educatee. In a dialogue based pedagogy, though the teacher is knowledgeable about the subject that they’re teaching and engaging their student with, they actively engage with their students and “relearn” the subject while studying it again with their students. The teacher is able to always find out new things and rediscover the material they’re already familiar with through working with their students closely; this turns learning into a JOINT act, rather than a solitary act. By allowing their students to “exercise their own powers of reconstruction,” the teacher allows their students to practice personal responsibility and expression.