Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Field Blog: Gearity Elementary School

       Before visiting this Elementary School, then question I wanted to address was how do teachers respond to the constant need of attention and help of their students? I understand that teachers of all grade levels spend their entire day helping and educating their students, but in the younger grades it it much more demanding. 
       Once we were all assigned our classrooms, we headed off to explore Gearity and find where we would be observing that day. I was assigned to observe in a Kindergarten classroom. When I walked in I realized that there was three different teachers in the room. I was confused about who was the main teacher, since they all seemed to be working equally hard to help their students. I later found out that one of women was a student teacher from Notre Dame College, the other was an assistant/aid, and the last was the classroom's main teacher. 
       That day the kids were working on how to write out the letter "A" and what words started with that letter. The student teacher had them color in pictures that started out with "A" and then share with the whole class, while the teacher assistant was going around the room and helping them decide. The main teacher had stepped outside in the hallway to get one on one attention with all the children one at a time. 
        I thought that this was a good system, because I could really see that every child's needs were being addressed. All the children were able to ask questions and get instant feedback from their teacher to help guide them with the lesson, rather than waiting in their seat for a long time, and eventually forgetting the question or move on. 
        I really liked that this school had such a large teacher to student ratio, because every student deserves to have the same quality attention in order to fully understand the material and feel they are valued. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Blog Post 9: Building a School

Link to Building a School Slide Show -->


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Blog Post 10: Summarizing the Course Blog

Being immersed in various schools, reading new books about education, and discussing thoughts with my classmates I have learned a lot. When I began this course I did not expect to get as much out of it as I have. When we started reading the William Ayers and Educational Foundation books, I was always genuinely interested in the information that was being discussed.
Starting with Lisa Delpit, I learned the importance of putting our own personal beliefs to the side when understanding others. Since reading this I have tried to remind myself of this when dealing with day to day situations. I found that when I am more open-minded and optimistic, I tend to look at things in a more positive way. This lesson will definitely stay with me for the rest of my life, especially in the teaching world.
Another lesson that was extremely eye-opening to me, was when we were assigned to go observe a public place with a partner. I found it so interesting that being in the same place as someone, at the same time, and basically in the same seat, we still saw so many different things. It made me realize how diverse people’s insights and perspectives are on the world. 
Lastly, I came to the realization that the most important qualities of a teacher are being passionate, empowering students, and connecting bridges. Through personal experience and class discussion I found that possessing these qualities truly benefits the students. Not only does it create a strong bond between the students and teachers, but it also makes a comfortable classroom - two very important aspects of being a great teacher. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Field Observation: Hathaway-Brown Elementary School

October 20th 2015:

      For my observation hours I was assigned to go to Hathaway-Brown in a 1st grade classroom. When I arrived at the school I was amazed by how giant it was. I walked up to the class room, noticing how decorated and colorful the school was. I found my room and saw there was no teacher there, but a classroom full of first grade girls all working silently. I introduced myself to them and they immediately started hugging me or asking lots of questions. The girls explained to me that they were supposed to be working silently and alone on a craft, card games, or reading a book.
     The teacher, Alaina McCourt, came back to the room and told the girls they were being too loud and had to work in complete silence - I was impressed by how quiet they were when I walked in, especially without having a teacher there, but I suppose Mrs. McCourt was not. The class continued to work in silence for a few more minutes before they headed off to dance class.
      After silent activity was over, everybody lined up to go downstairs for dance. I thought this was so cool because at any of my schools there was never a class specifically made for dancing, besides the occasional ballet lesson in Physical Education. A lot of the girls told me that this was their favorite class to go to. The teacher who taught dance was very down to earth and soft spoken. She played a type of African Tribal musical that all the girls seemed to enjoy very much. Today's dance lesson was going to be about water and movement she explained. She emphasized the idea of "shrinking and growing" or "closing and opening". After discussing this idea, every girl was told they had to come up with their own move that portrayed that idea. She went around the room asking for their dance to be shown and I was amazed how different everybody had interpreted that idea, not one person had the same move as some one else.
     When dance class was over we headed back to the room for snack and reading. Everybody got a snack from the refrigerator outside the class and then silently headed into the room, awaiting Mrs. McCourt to read their story. I was surprised how attentive all the girls were while she was reading, there was barely any side chatter.
       The next activity the class had was art. Again everyone silently lined up and we walked across the building to art. The art class room was painted with a mural of an under water environment, which a group of students had done. In art the first graders were working on making a paper doll that had a moveable head to convey three different emotions and were allowed to style it however they choose. I couldn't stay for long during art, because I had class but it seemed like something I would have enjoyed.
        I really liked this visit, because I got to see a lot of cool classes the school offered. I also felt so welcome by the students and staff there - it definitely seems like a great school and I am excited to visit again.

November 3rd:
       Today at my observation hours the majority of the time was used for reading. From 12:00 to 12:40 the students came back to class from recess and lunch they each got into their labeled spot on the carpet for reading time. The topic for today's class was making connection from the book Mrs. McCourt was reading to either life, another book, or the world. While Mrs. McCourt read a lot of the kids raised their hands and were able to make connection from the story to their own life - something Bill Ayers strives for (building bridges). I thought this was a really good exercise and the kids seemed to be genuinely interested in paying attention.
      After the class reading all the kids did reading on their own. Mrs. McCourt put on soothing music that truly created a very relaxed and peaceful class environment. Once every student was done reading their own books they got into partners, to share their own connections with one another.
       Once reading time was over, it was time for quiet hour. During quiet hour every student was bale to choose coloring, making clay, reading or doing homework. A majority of the class choose coloring and sat at a table in the back of the room together. Mrs. McCourt again put on soothing music, and surprisingly all the kids were very cooperative and focused on their task.

November 10th:

     At my observation hours this week I was able to observe quiet time, sharing time, music class, and art class.
     During quiet time, the girls had just gotten back from lunch so they were still a bit riled up, but when Mrs. McCourt turned on the relaxing music, she usually does, they knew to settle down and get to work. The majority of the girls spent this time coloring, reading, or doing their homework. It lasted for about 20 or so minutes until it was sharing time.
     During sharing time, four of the students were able to present their kindness squares. The squares were sheets of paper with a patterned border that the girls drew and made themselves. They each represented an act of kindness they performed such as - washing dishes, playing with their dog, sweeping the floor, doing laundry, or taking out the trash. These pictures were going to be later added to the kindness quilt hung up in the room showing everyones random acts of kindness.
      After we went to music class where the girls were working on the upcoming play in December. They seemed to be very distracted and not attentive during this class because the teacher had to spend most of the time going over rules and behavior issues. It was not until the last five minutes of class they began to work on the play, which was about a hardworking girl who is going to be tricked into giving away her prized jewelry.
      The last class I saw was art. There was a substitute teacher there today so most of the class was spent telling the teacher the kids names and re-going over the project they were working on, which was making an animal out of different patterned and textured papers.
      As I continue to go, I feel myself liking the school more and making a better connection with the kids!

November 17th:

     During today's visit I got to see the teacher and students work in Social Studies class, which is a subject I hadn't yet seen them work on. I was never a fan of Social Studies growing up so I didn't think it was going to be that fun to observe, but I was wrong! The topic of the Social Studies's class was about Thanksgiving. Ms. McCourt had planned for the students to share what they knew about Thanksgiving, what they wondered, and what they learned after reading the book. I thought this was a good way to start off the activity, because everyone was able to see/share information that they didn't know, but would eventually know after Ms. McCourt had read the book.
     As Ms. McCourt was reading a lot of the kids seemed to be paying very close attention so that they could figure out the questions they had wondered before. There was a lot of "Ohhhhh!" and "That's what we were wondering!" whispers while she had read the story.
       Once the book was finished everyone seemed to fully understand answers to the questions they had asked before, which were like - Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Who decided we should celebrate it? and Why is it in Thanksgiving? I thought these were all good questions, since I didn't know the answer to some of them myself. I found out that first Abraham Lincoln declared that America should celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt switched it to the 4th Thursday of November. I thought that this was pretty interesting facts, since I had never any idea this is how what day we celebrated was decided.
       After they read and discussed, they got to play a bingo game. The bingo board involved the kids cutting on symbols of Thanksgiving and then placing them on their board. I  liked this because it also helped them learn why certain elements were important to this holiday.
        I thought that observing today was more fun than usual and I am excited, but somewhat sad to be going back for my last time this Thursday.

November 19th:

         During today's observation I was able to talk to more of the students and really get to know them better. The first class they had was reading, where they were learning about non-ficitonal books. Ms. McCourt read aloud a book about animals who are going extinct. Personally, I thought it was interesting since I am a huge animal lover and so did many of the kids in the class. When she reads aloud the kids all sit on their carpet squares together, where they sometimes are tempted to talk to each other, but today everyone was very interested in what Ms. McCourt had to tell them. After she read the short non-fictional story, everyone was told to go find a quiet place in the room and read their own non-fictional story that they would later share what they had learned with the class. While the students were reading quietly a few of them approached me asking for help on pronouncing words and if I would listen to them to make sure they were doing okay. I was so happy when they came up and talked to me! I have talked to the students before here and there but never ongoing conversations because they usually have to being doing work in silence or we are at a special. I was able to talk to about 5 students that were ecstatic to tell me about their book. It brought me so much joy to see how interested and excited they were. This made me even more set on wanting to teach early childhood, because I love how all the kids find happiness in the littlest of things.
       After the reading lesson they had snack and quiet time. During quiet time a lot of the girls worked on their letter to future students. I thought this was a fun activity Ms.McCourt came up with.. the girls all had to write a letter to a person in the future about what schools are like now and how they thought they would be in the future. One of the girls shared with me she thought there would be robots who would do your homework and take your tests for you, cause she hates doing boring work but likes doing art, music, and dance class. I took this opinion into consideration and thought about how when I become a teacher I want to organize lesson plans revolving around all the children's passions that can be connected to the outside community. A few of the other girls I were talking with were drawing and made me cards since it was my last day, which was really nice.
       After this I had to leave but I am so happy I was able to have this experience at Hathaway-Brown, and will definitely utilize all the knowledge I gained from Ms.McCourt and her students in the future.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Field Blog Post: Shaker Heights High School

           On October 22, 2015 I had the opportunity to visit Shaker Heights High School. As we arrived to the school, I immediately noticed how large it was. Growing up in a small town, my entire high school only had about 500 students, at Shaker Heights they had about 400 students in each grade. When we walked into the school we were warmly greeted by the staff and taken to the library for a brief meeting with the principals. The library had a very homey environment, kids were sitting on the ground in bean bag chairs whispering quietly and doing work. At my high school it was mandatory that everyone sat at a table with a maximum of four people. I liked that Shaker trusted their students enough that they are able to sit, talk, and work on projects together, because it allows everyone to collaborate and share ideas.
During the meeting, we learned that Shaker Heights was an IB school. I had never heard of IB schooling before then, but it seems like an extremely quality way of educating. We were also informed that the student has a say in whether they participate in the IB classes, AP classes, or regular classes. I really liked that because it gives kids the opportunity to do what they feel the most comfortable and interested in. Once we finished discussing any questions we had about the school prior to visiting our class rooms, we were sent off to a first room assignments. For the Shaker Heights visit I crafted the question: “Do high school teachers use the same level of enthusiasm and engaging activities as lower grade school teachers do? (banking vs. problem- posing).
       My first class was with Mr. Schmidt in room 259. I got lost but a student came up and helped me find my way, which I greatly appreciated it. As I walked into Mr. Schmidt’s room I was greeted with a room full of smiles. Mr. Schmidt introduced himself to me and everyone in the class said hello. I felt very welcome and comfortable. Mr. Schmidt was teaching a freshman honors physics class at this time. They had a test the next day so they were all reviewing and going over a review sheet Mr. Schmidt had them do the night before for homework. Mr. Schmidt was very vocal and was engaging every student in the review session. He was asking everyone questions, all the students seemed genuinely interested in the topic and wanting a good grade on the test. Every student in the room was focused and were not afraid to ask questions or speak up when they didn't fully get the problem. I really admired that, because in high school often times I felt that I couldn’t ask a question because I would look “dumb” or be made fun of for not understanding. Everyone in the classroom was very comfortable with each other and showed respect anytime someone else was speaking. Mr. Schmidt asked the class after every concept if there was any questions or concerns, most of the teachers in my high school didn't do that because they wanted to get through the topics and move on. I liked that Mr. Schmidt took into account his students’ needs more than whether or not he got through his lesson plan fast enough. Mr. Schmidt also used a lot of real world connections and analogies to his problems that the students could relate too. I definitely would say that Mr. Schmidt used the same, maybe even more enthusiasm as grade school teachers do. I think this is an important quality to possess, because I found that as I got older, my teachers’ lesson plans got more boring and less interactive, but Mr. Schmidt  did not at all. I would have loved to have him as a teacher and really enjoyed shadowing him!
The second class I visited was Mrs. Mazzie in room 222. When I met Mrs. Mazzie I got the sense that was very soft spoken and caring. Mrs. Mazzie is a Spanish teacher for all grades and at any levels. I am minoring in Spanish so I was really excited to find out that I was going to shadow a Spanish teacher! She made me feel very welcome and was interested in knowing about my interests, my high school, and how college was going for me. It was nice to see how much genuine interest she had in getting to know me. When her class came in they took their seats and were studying quietly amongst themselves - she explained to me before they came that they were taking a quiz today. Since they were taking a quiz I wasn’t able to see the regular class room environment, but Mrs. Mazzie explained to me some of the daily tasks that she has all her classes do. She showed me a paper that is called “Daily Warm-ups”, the daily warm up had a new question on it every day, dealing with something they had learned yesterday to refresh their memory, a blank line for what the student hopes to achieve that day, and then a rating scale from 1 to 10 that the students fill out once class is over, based on how well they believe they performed that day. She also explained to me some of the games they play like Spanish Battleship, which they use to help memorize vocabulary and verb tenses. I thought was a really good idea, because it was fun and helped the students learn something at the same time. I was only able to stay in Mrs. Mazzie’s room for 15 minutes but I could see that she had a very open and fun classroom environment. Although I didn’t see her actually teaching a lesson, getting to know her for those 15 minutes, gave me the impression that she was a very hands on/interactive teacher. She stressed the importance of having fun but learning, which is important for all teachers to find a balance in no matter what the age of the students are. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blog Post 8: Building Bridges

For my lesson plan I decided to do a drawing activity, because I’m a big fan of art and letting kids express themselves freely. For the activity, all the students get into pairs. One student is assigned as “A” and the other is “B”. The two students are each handed a folder of two pictures labeled one and two, along with two blank papers. Student “A” will be instructed to be the describer first and student “B” will be the drawer. Student “A” then has two minutes to describe the picture, while student “B” draws it. After the two minutes is over student “B” becomes the describer, and “A” the drawer. The process is then repeated a second time. 
As William Ayers describes the idea of building bridges in his book, “To Teach the journey, in comics” this drawing lesson can relate very well to his metaphor. Ayers’ metaphor of building bridges can be interpreted as the ability for students to make connections from in class work or discussions to real world situations/problems/issues. The task of building bridges is important because, it pushes the student to apply the knowledge they have gained in the classroom and put it to real use. Many students, including myself at times, often forget to use what we have learned in class when dealing with real life situations - whether it be math, psychology, or science. An example of how the drawing lesson plan can be qualified as building bridges is because it emphasizes the importance of communication skills. For the activity to go smoothly, the students must clearly, descriptively, and effectively speak to one another, especially because they are under a time restraint. This tool to communicate is key to society, because we are often faced with challenges that cause us to get our point across well and quickly - such as interviews, presentations, or speed dating. Another lesson that relates to building bridges from this drawing activity is effective listening. The lesson requires effective listening, because in order to successfully draw the pictures both partners must listen closely to each other’s advice and questions. This connects to the outside world, because listening plays a key role in how well you can understand others emotions and input. Many people engage in passive listening, but not critical. Critical listening focuses on people actively engaging in the conversation, and hearing out what each other has to say (an important quality to possess).
If I wanted this activity to go successfully, I definitely would take into consideration the advice from Freire, Ohanian, DiGuilia, and Ayers. From Freie, he stresses the importance for students’ goal to be becoming “beings” for themselves. (106) This means that he wants students to express themselves how they truly feel and not to be afraid to think out of the box. The drawing lesson allows the students to describe and draw however they please too. With a lack of strict rules on what you can/cannot say or draw, students are able to choose how they approach the task. This is important because students will then hopefully apply their own creative thinking to approach real world discussions. 
Ohanian on the other hand discusses the idea of that what counts is endeavor and attitude (108). I agree with Ohanian on this notion, because when a kid considers themselves to be bad at something they do not find joy in participating. I think that reassuring kids as long as they are trying their best is all that matters. As a teacher it is obligatory we remind our students of that. Ohanian’s advice is important for teachers to take note on, because I think that sometimes teachers forget not all students can do everything the best, but as long as they are pushing themselves to do the best is what truly counts! The drawing activity encourages students to perform  to their best ability without pressure.
Ayers’ emphasizes the message that: “Learning is active, and we’re all in this together” (41). I think this message is incorporated well with the drawing activity, because everyone is working together for a common goal - to draw and describe successfully. This can be connected to the real world, because everyone is trying to reach a common goal of being successful and finding happiness. 
Lastly, DiGuilio’s advice that stood out to me the most was “Empowering means actively teaching students to help themselves” (129). This is specifically important, because kids need to be reminded they can do things on their own. Because students are always being told by their parents, teachers, and others around them what to do, they forget they can do things their own way. Although it is teachers’ jobs to instruct students on how to do their homework, classwork, and other activities, I believe it is important we find a balance that also allows them to express their ideas/problem solving solutions in their own way. Empowering students forces them to become their own people and promotes their creativity, which is key to the drawing and describing aspect of the drawing activity. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Blog Post 6: The Banking Concept of Education - Paulo Freire

In Paulo Freire’s reading, “The Banking Concept of Education” a few main points of his really stood out to me. In the beginning of the reading Freire said, “The student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance of  “capital” in the affirmation “the capital of Para is Belem” (103). I found this statement to be very relatable. At the beginning of my childhood I thought school was fun, we engaged in activities, were able to express ourselves however we wished, and had more time to play games. Although I understand as we grow older we need to learn harder topics which means we need more time focusing on school work, I think that it is important to keep a balance between work and play. As I moved from middle to high school I felt myself losing less interest in school. Not because I was in that moody teenage stage, but because it seemed that all that was important was getting high grades. Transitioning from middle to high school, at least to me, it seemed that to teachers it was more important that kids got high scores on our tests, rather than us actually understanding the concept and being able to apply it to real life. Connecting this experience back to Freire’s statement, it just further proves how so many kids, including myself, memorize a topic for a test, take the test, get a good score (hopefully), then forget the topic, and move on. I don't think that this is an effective way of learning at all. I think that teacher’s need to realize that it is not all about getting high test scores, and stress the importance of legitimately understanding the topic more. When I become a teacher, I’d rather take more time on a lesson if need be so the students truly understand what is going on and will be able to connect it to real life, rather than rushing through the topic, cramming the idea into their head for a short period of time, and then forgetting the whole point. I also think that it I will take the time to organize activities that involve learning but in a fun way and give my students time to reflect, practice, and collaborate with one another about issues.
Another statement that really stood out to me was when Freire said, “Education as the practice of freedom - as opposed to education as the practice of domination” (111). This was one of my favorite post it notes I commented on because, it stresses the importance of freedom. When I think of school I think of a place where students are dictated by teachers, principals, and other staff to do as they say. There is little room for students to voice their own views, wishes, and needs. As a future educator, I want to be able to give my kids as much freedom as possible. With freedom comes self-expression and creativity which is key in today’s world! When people are able to think outside of the box and think of new/innovative ways to conquer challenges it is extremely rewarding. Teachers today should be encouraging their students to express themselves and give them space to do their own thing. If I was to interview a person, one of the most important aspects I would look for in them is creativity. Creativity embraces students to make unique connections and see life in different way. Possessing this quality is so important and I firmly believe schools need to be more centered around letting their students be creative! Especially with Common Core, there is very little room for kids to solve problems their own ways and I think that needs to be changed. When I see my younger brother who is 10, doing his Common Core homework, he is often times able to solve the problems in his own ways, but they are considered “unacceptable”. I hope that teachers these days will soon start to realize that they need to let their students explore the world, create their own views, and let their children express themselves.