Field Placement Reflections
I observe two middle school technology classes at an all-girl's private school on the Main Line. I've had three or four placements there so far, and I've been continually impressed by the teacher's patience as well as the inter-personal relationships between the girls themselves. (From what I've seen, there aren't any "queen bees" or "mean girls"--they really all do act very sweetly with eachother, which has been so heartwarming to experience.)
While the students at my school are lucky enough to have a new, well-equipped technology suite, there are still a number of overarching questions to contend with. For example, however beautiful their new machines are, it seems like every class begins with 50% of the girls not being able to log onto their accounts, the teacher calling the IT department, and the girls spinning around on the chairs as they wait for the IT department to log them in. Furthermore, there are always little technology hiccups and confusions that interrupt the class, and the teacher has to spend her time dealing with little maintinace issues (i.e. email passwords, log-on issues, etc) rather than teaching to the "entire" class. To top this all off, the students apparently aren't allowed to get homework for their computer class since the rest of their classes are so demanding.
I'm of two minds about this. My knee-jerk reaction is to isolate the parts of class that seem to "waste time" and think they could be made into homework assignments. (I'm not suggesting that the girls be required to download the Scratch software onto their home computers; I'm thinking more along the lines of emailing their final paragraphs and assignments to their teacher during a free period.) Seeing the girls get sidetracked definitely makes me want to jump up and say, "focus focus focus!" However, as I think more cohesively about the situation, I've also learned to look at their "goofing off" with a new lens. These girls are in the 6th and 8th grades: they still need downtime. They still need time to giggle with friends and, yes, spin around on computer chairs. Developmentally speaking, it must be good that they go into that classroom with the expectation of having fun with eachother, no?
Basically, what I'm trying to say is: it's a tricky balance. Classes should be productive... right? It's bad to waste time... right? But growing girls also need "fun" time... right? We can't load developing girls with extra homework and remove this point of stress relief from their lives... right? I wonder what it feels like from the perspective of the teacher. She has ambitious plans for the class and surely wants to teach the girls as much as possible, but how can that be done with no homework and with constant little technology issues? What must it feel like to spend the trimester--or even your entire career?--teaching a class where the students don't take it as "seriously" as a core subject?