After my first field experience visiting Noble Elementary, I realized that I would actually enjoy teaching. This is saying a lot because in hindsight, this wasn’t even my favorite field experience. During my visit at Noble, however my partner and I observed a 2nd and 1st grade classroom. I observed that the teachers taught very differently and I believed that this was because of both the grade differences and the differences in the type of students in the two classes. By observing them teach, I got an insight to what type of teacher I might like to be and I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a mix of the two teachers. The 1st grade teacher did not snap at the children at all, even when they did not listen and I thought this was because she was more lenient because of their ages. She was extremely animated with the group that she was working with and she did not address the children who were working by themselves in the other groups unless it was to acknowledge good behavior. The 2nd grade teacher, however said things to her students like “you need to get your act together today” to one child who was being restless and distracting in class. I believed that this was just the teacher being tired of the student’s reoccurring bad behavior in class, which I thought was understandable. The child reminded me of the situation that Bill Ayers brings up in To Teach when there was an energetic child who was labeled with hyperactive disorder by an outside observer and Bill thought that he was just energetic and needed a little extra help and attention. Observing this situation in real life made me see how easy it is to write children off with learning disabilities when they are acting up in class. This visit taught me how to be animated and enthusiastic about learning in my classroom, while also being in control of my students. I also got to practice using the descriptions and interpretations t-chart, which was a helpful tool especially in my individual field observations that I completed later on.
My second field experience was our class trip to Shaker Heights Middle School. This visit was right after our class lesson and discussion on building bridges based on Bill Ayers’ “Building Bridges” chapter in To Teach. In this chapter he describes 5 situations to build bridges. He discusses building a physical bridge for the classroom pet turtle, an internal bridge from childhood to adulthood and the individual’s journey, a bridge between teachers and students and their relationship, a bridge between students and the differences that they share, especially racial differences, and the last bridge is bridging people at a disadvantage, such as being illiterate, who have their own walk of life, with the world around them. Ayers describes how in all situations, bridge building is not forced and there is a moderator who introduces, fosters, and supports ideas that lead to bridge building. A bridge could also be built from these class readings to my visit to Shaker. I specifically saw the bridge between student and teacher in the 7th grade math class that I observed. The teacher spoke to the students in a way that put him on the same level as them. He did not talk down to them or discourage them when they got the wrong answer. He gave the students a chance to think things through by themselves, but in a way that also made it feel like he was working it through the problem with them. After later on learning of Freire’s criticism of banking education from his chapter in Educational Foundations, I realized that this observation was a tribute to this criticism and is one example of how our education system is trying to get away from this just depositing information into students by the teachers. Sitting in this math class made me flash back to my middle school days when I learned the same math. It was extremely interesting to see how they were learning different techniques and solutions to the same math problems I learned about when I was an elementary student, which I thought was super metaphorical.
My third field experience was our class trip to Heights High School. I was placed in a 3rd level sign language class where there was little to no talking. The teacher only communicated with the students through sign language. I thought it was really interesting to see how the teacher held class discussions on the 2016 election (which hadn’t happened yet at the time). It was really cool how they could communicate and discuss such meaningful and educated topics solely though sign language. I was extremely impressed. This visit was after our class reading and discussion of Paulo Freire’s “The Banking Concept of Education” in Educational Foundations and I was curious if the sign language teacher that I observed struggled at all with this issue of banking education. From my observations of the class, I would say that this teacher combats banking education and the banking concept very well. He must use memorization in order to teach the basics of sign language, which could be considered banking education, however he broke away from this because he used this foundation learned from memorization to discuss current real issues in the world and country. This teacher used banking education, but took it a step further by engaging students in deeper thought and discussion, which I think is one of the main points Freire was trying to make. We were told at our first Cleveland Heights Public school how the district was considered an urban school, consisting of a large poor population, so looking back on this visit, after reading Alfie Kohn’s Chapter 21 in Educational Foundations about teaching poor children vs. teaching wealthier children. I realized that this specific teacher also was combating the “pedagogy of poverty” by not just teaching these students what they need in order to pass the next class test, or to do the next pointless worksheet so that they learn now that they need to just be quiet and follow the rules and just do their given job instead of creating and criticizing, and dreaming.
My 10 hours of outside observations were completed at Gesu Elementary School in Mrs. Clary’s 3rd grade class. She has about 20 students in her class, which is relatively small, but she says she enjoys the classroom dynamic. For multiple visits I arrived at 12:45, which was after recess so the students were a little rowdy coming in but each time I visited I observed this classroom’s love for reading. They would eventually all sit down and pull out their “silent reading books” and start reading while they would take turns using the bathroom while Mrs. Clary prepared the next lesson for the afternoon. I thought this love for reading was amazing and I saw this through each of my 10 hours in that classroom. Mrs. Clary explained to me how they take Accelerated Reader Tests (or AR’s) after they read each book which are just simply 5-10 questions tests on the content of the books to see how well the students comprehended the books they read. Each student sets their own individual goal for how many books and how good of an average score they get on their tests over each quarter. Mrs. Clary has so many different series for different interests and reading levels which keeps them motivated to read books they enjoy to reach their own personal goal. I think this is a fantastic system that really flourishes in Mrs. Clary's classroom because of how interested the students are and how they sort of taught themselves how to utilize down-time in the classroom by reading books that they enjoy to reach a goal.
Mrs. Clary also assigns different tasks to different students each day such as paper passers, board washers, or office runners. On days when I would visit on Wednesday’s at 12:45, the students would fill their “Wednesday Folders” which are folders containing graded work, class projects and school news that go home for the students’ parents to view. On these days, the paper passers help Mrs. Clary by passing back papers to fellow classmates so that they can put them in their “Wednesday Folders”. During one of my visits, I observed that one paper passer was congratulating her fellow classmates when she noticed that they received a good grade on an assignment, which I thought was really cool. I think it shows the camaraderie that has been built among the students in the classroom, especially because most of them have been together since kindergarten.
One Wednesday, after “Wednesday Folders”, Mrs. Clary did a Kahoot game for the students to review for their Health test on safety. They were really intrigued by the game, however they were a little rambunctious at this time of the day and Mrs. Clary had to keep stopping to quiet them down. Then, the students had to switch to another class for social studies and they did not get to finish their game, because of how rambunctious they were, and the students told Mrs. Clary that they understood why they didn’t finish. I thought that this was extremely important because it teaches the students that they are in charge of their own learning, which is what our class just talked about with the DiGuilio Chapter in Educational Foundations. Mrs. Clary's 3rd graders are learning that their actions will affect their productivity, learning and ultimately success and they don't even realize it because they just think that they're playing a game and because they didn't utilize their time, they didn't get to finish.
The students frequently switched to other classrooms for Social Studies and English. One day I visited, they were working on Native American Projects where each student had a tribe to research using books and printouts. They specifically researched how each tribe found food and the houses they lived in. The students had to write paragraphs on each of these topics and then they would have to put them together into one large page. Other than the teacher providing an opening topic sentence for each paragraph, the students were required to find all the information themselves and had to formulate and organize their paragraphs on their own. I got the opportunity to help the students with their paragraphs by proof reading them when they were complete. The final part of the project is a diorama of their particular tribe's house, made of only natural resources (no plastic). The students seemed to be really excited about this project and interested in the topic and being able to discover and find out information on their own. The teacher made the children believe that she was learning along with them when she would ask what the students had found out about their tribe. They felt like they were enlightening her. Another occasion that I visited, the students were watching a video on the Pilgrims and other early settlers. The students were required to take notes on the video and then share their facts with the class at the end.
The students also switched for their English class where they were working on a haunted house story where the students plugged in descriptive adjectives and verbs to a pre-made story about an encounter with a haunted house. They made rough drafts, and then wrote their final drafts on a nice colorful sheet of paper. When they were done with their story, they got to draw out their haunted house and color it. The students were extremely intrigued by this project and I was impressed on how advanced their vocabulary was. I thought the assignment was a really cool way to allow students to be creative and also work on vocabulary and grammar at the same time.
Throughout my visits the students did many different activities in order to learn their required class material, such as using iPad’s to make collages of math facts and strategies, using LEGOS to make catapults in Science, play competitive games to review their Phonics, use Halloween short stories to teach about themes, vocabulary and other aspects of stories, and the entire 3rd grade class’s Christmas Pageant to learn about and celebrate the birth of Christ in the Catholic Faith. All of these examples I witnessed reminded me of Freire's "Banking Concept of Education" in Educational Foundations because in this setting, the students were discovering and creating for themselves. The teachers were allowing for the students to make academic discoveries about the world and the lessons they were being taught. I believe that based on the readings in class, the authors that we have encountered, including Freire and Ayers would be very pleased with what I have observed in these scenarios in our education system today.