Welcome to the Education Fieldwork Seminar at Bryn Mawr/Haverford Colleges 2013, a culminating course for Education minors that focuses on these three interconnected goals:
To facilitate multiple perspectives on and ways of learning from an ongoing field placement, including (where possible) gaining additional practical experience as an educator
To support students in exploring complex issues of educational policy and practice in meaningful contexts
To help students gather together and extend their learning across the courses and contexts that have comprised the minor for them in a variety of ways, including through the completion of a final portfolio or comparable final project.
Welcome to the on-line conversation for Education Fieldwork. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts"; it's a place for thoughts-in-progress. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.
Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our class. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of lots of people. Feel free to comment on any post below or to create a post via the left sidebar.
Please post here a brief description of your field site with the times that you're there. Thanks!
My last day at my placement was surprisingly calm. The students had a short day at school, so they'd had a full 3 hours to relax before coming to Wordsmiths. What a difference that made in attitude and atmosphere! We were so much more effective; everyone was in a good mindset for working. I think that, by itself, was really telling of what students need in their daily routine: time to relax.
The student that I worked with, Bianca, said that she spent all 3 hours on her kindle, playing games. And when I think about it, I sometimes need a few hours to unwind--and I end up watching videos on Hulu or talking with friends. And that time is not "wasted"--though it's hard for me to think about it as useful, since so often, we talk about relaxation time as "unproductive."
In fact, I think those hours of "non-productivity" contribute to a sense of balance and, with reflection, internally-driven motivation to get things done when you do sit down to work. You need to hibernate, in order to create. It's unfair to expect students to produce constantly. I, personally, prefer intense work interspersed with calm/relaxation/physical activity. Longer days, working without pausing to relax, seem somehow less productive and more like busy work. I sense that some of the students at my placement feel the same way.
During this week, Ms. Morrow was beginning to work on more life skills, rather than the standardized tests she had been forced to focus on for a long period of time. When I was observing her during this process, I realized that I never thought about these life skills as something that a teacher would have to dedicate time to.
Personally, I always found it to be something you learn as you go through the cycles of life but for these students, they may never be given the opportunity to learn how to fill out various different application forms.
What I found most interesting about this activity was how Ms. Morrow’s plan in a small span of time. Initially, she was having her group of four students, whom are all on the same or similar reading levels, doing the forms. As she was going over the forms with them she decided to have all of her students fill out these “fake” applications.
One of the biggest objectives of this activity was to see if the students could follow the different directions on different forms and formats asking for the same information. In an attempt to make them be more independent about it, Ms. Morrow decided to walk away from them and allow them to do it on their own. This decision lasted about 30 seconds, which really shows a lot about her as a teacher and as someone who cares for her students.
Today is Ms. Presley's birthday. (She is turning 30.) She is wearing a brightly colored spring dress which draws lots of compliments as we walk through the hallways, but she gets even more attention for the occasion of her birthday. One teacher bought her a gluten-free cake from a fancy bakery; a student (I think) brought her a box of 4 cupcakes from another fancy bakery (no SuperFresh cupcakes from these people, apparently!) which are not gluten-free so Ms. Presley offers them to me to take home. (I am appreciative, but then as I am leaving I realize I forgot them and wasn't sure if it would be polite to go back and bother her for them, so I don't. I hope she found someone else to take them.) Meanwhile, both sections of fifth-graders sing happy birthday when they enter the room, apparently people also sang to her at lunch, and near the end of the first section Mr. Baker comes by to accompany students on the piano singing to her again (he didn't know they already had sang, of course.) One section of fifth grade brought a card that everyone signed. I like that teacher's birthdays are taken as seriously (maybe more) than children's here; it suggests that colleagues pay attention to one another and care about each other.
Leaving My Placement
I haven’t really ever felt concerned about leaving my placement before. For some reason, this time I do. I think this is particularity because I have grown very attached to several students and the host teachers were so wonderful to me, especially with the cross-visitations. When I asked a day ahead of time, they let me still bring someone to visit – twice.
That being said, I’m very excited to thank them for everything. Here is my problem – there is an aid in the classroom who also acts as a teacher but has not played a huge role in my experience – can I give the other two teachers a card/gift certificate but not the aid? Is there a classy way to do this?
Also, is there something that I should give to the students? I plan on making sure I say goodbye to all of the students, especially the ones that I have worked more with but if I give cards to the teachers will they notice if I don’t give the students something?
Just some thoughts – looking forward to being done but also sad to leave something that I had very little expectations for and have learned a lot from.
Alex has a learning disability – I’m not exactly sure what it is but he has a personal aid in the classroom. This aid is only there for two hours at the beginning of the day and then Alex is on his own.
After she leaves Alex gets visibly different – he is less focused and disrupts his classmates more. This past week, during one student’s computer time, Alex kept going up to the monitor and turning it off. Then eventually he just put his hand on it and never let it go so the girl on the computer started to ask him to move his hand. Alex wouldn’t. So I went over and said, “Alex, Grace is using her words and asking you to stop, did you hear her?” No response. Then I said, “Alex you need to listen to her and take your hand of the monitor. Lets go together and find another lesson to do.” Nothing. Then a teacher came over and physically moved Alex by pulling his hand down and then picking him up and moving him to the other side of the classroom. While this was clearly effective, it is not the first thing I would think to do – in fact it was probably the last.
When is it okay to physically move students from doing something? I always thought that physicality was reserved for dangerous situations. Does this change when a student can’t process words? By moving them are we demonstrating that communication doesn’t work?
While the students have “free lesson time” they can chose to do their lesson at a table or on the big carpet in the middle of the classroom. If they do the lesson in the middle of the classroom, they have to grab a small individual carpet to put their lesson on – so the pieces of the lesson don’t get lost.
This past week, two boys, the oldest two in the class at 6yrs, were doing a puzzle on the rug without a personal rug for the lesson. I asked them, “what do you need it you are doing a lesson on the big rug?” one of the boys responded, “We don’t need a personal rug for puzzles.” I said, “Alright, good to know, thank you.” Later, I saw a different student doing a puzzle and using a personal rug.
This made me feel really awkward and unsure of my place in the classroom. The student was probably just being over cautious and didn’t in fact need a personal rug – but it got me to thinking – how can we, as visiting teachers, truly discipline without being aware and knowing all of the rules? I was able to clarify with the teacher about the policy on personal rugs – she said it depends on the puzzle.
I have mentioned this student before in passing but I thought it would be worthwhile (mostly for myself) to devote an entire field post to her.
Samantha is the most adorable Chinese 4 year old. Her parents moved here right before she was born. From the beginning of my placement, in January, she has been kind of a pet=project of mine, a student who I always try to work with because she is more quiet and doesn’t seem to socially click with the other students. She slowly started to open up to me and we would have small conversations while working on lessons together.
A few weeks ago during a full class circle, the teacher made the announcement that Samantha would be moving back to China at the end of the school year. I spoke to the teachers privately afterward and found out that Samantha’s parents were getting worried that Samantha was beginning to like the United States too much – or at least they were worried she wouldn’t want to live in China and would never visit family in China so they were going to move back as a family.
After that, Samantha has started to talk with me a lot less. It is also very interesting because on Monday her English is very choppy and almost impossible to understand, comparatively, on Wednesday it gets bit better and she can understand sentences. I think it has to do with her family speaking Chinese at home over the weekend – so she gets more accustomed to it over the weekend – maybe she has fallen back into a pattern by Wednesday?
Last Friday at my field placement, it was Grandparents' Day at the elementary school. All of the children in the school's grandparents were welcome to come to school with their grandchildren on this day, and they followed along with the students during their lessons in the morning. Most grandparents then took their grandchildren out for lunch, and spent the afternoon with them outside of school. Because of this, the lesson plan for the day was changed from what it normally is, and after lunch, there were only about five of the fifteen students left in the classroom.
Although it wasn't a normal school day, I still made a lot of interesting observations this day, especially in terms of class--although I encounter a good bit of diversity at my Friends school placement, it is still interesting to me that every single student's grandparents in my placement class were able and willing to take time out of their day to spend time with their grandchild. Would this have been different in a public school setting a mere few blocks away from this center city school? Probably. In a less affluent school setting, it might be considered presumptuous to assume every grandparent is able to take time out of their day to spend time with their grandchild at school, and them take them out of school for the afternoon--perhaps the grandparent has to work, or has other commitments; perhaps they are not retired at as early of an age as some more affluent people in the Philadelphia area. These are important things to consider.
This week, my field notes involve an interaction my teacher and I had, as opposed to interactions with my students. On this day, I had 1st, 2nd, and Kindergarten students, and the day was pretty typical. I did a read a loud in each class, and also designed a corresponding activity. The students were all pretty well behaved, and the day was as “normal” as can be.
At one point, when I had just finished instructing the students, my mentor teacher turned to me and whispered, “How about the Boston thing?” I saw her during the previous week right around when the bombing happened, but of course, a lot had developed since then. For example, one suspect had been killed and the other had been recently captured. I responded by stating what a tragedy it has all been, and my teacher answered back with something along the lines of, “That’s why I find it so important to make these students feel comfortable here.”