May 18, 2011 5 Comments
My first day at my practicum sight was exciting, crazy, hectic, fun, and boring. Throughout the day more and more of my stereotypes and expectations were erased starting with the gushing kindness of the principal. I made a lot of observations because that is what I did for seven and a half hours, but I also had a chance to talk to the teacher about what I wanted to do and am willing to do. The teacher I am observing is definitely and obviously strict with her first grade students, but that is what many of them need (I’m just not sure her methods are yielding the best results.)
I wasn’t necessarily expecting hostility from the principal, but it just felt like she was so excited to see us that and it made me excited for my first day of school. I have to say I was a little caught off guard to see that the principal was a little white lady with the biggest smile on her face. She enthusiastically introduced us to our teachers and told us she plans to have follow up meetings with us just to check in. I was told that this is the first year for this principal and the one before was African American and had unique tastes in uniforms and opinions on how to run the school. Another stereotype was shattered when I walked into the classroom and there were four MAC computers in the back of the room and four in the corner of the room I had lunch in.
I assumed that Philadelphia schools were poor and could not afford books, let alone computers and I was obviously wrong. The children also had hard-covered reading books that were in great condition that I did not expect as well. Later in the day I heard the teacher talking about a Smartboard and the only reason she didn’t have one in her room is because of space and wiring problems, not because of the money. The classroom I am placed in for this experience is one of the only ones in the school that does not have air condition again because of a wiring problem. I didn’t expect air conditioning to be anywhere because I only had air conditioning in very few select rooms at my high school.
As I was sitting at my little table at the side of the room I realized just how powerful a stare can be. I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries on my first day and discipline the kids too much, but if they were doing something wrong and knew it, all I had to do was look at them and they would stop, at least for a few seconds. Although my teacher is very strict there are a few things that she has given up on trying to fight. One kid that switches to our room for reading is allowed to sit in the doorway and do nothing all period because even if they could get him to come in and sit down, he wouldn’t do work. The vice principal even walks by and just lets him go. Today they got him in the door, but he sat on the carpet and proceeded to roll around, hide behind things, army-crawl, and pretend to shoot me. This was threatened once but no one did anything about it. This is a discipline problem, but it was an observation on how some kids are just allowed to do anything they want. I’m sure if his teachers started pushing him from the start and wanted him to succeed, he would be much more inclined to learning. Children want to learn from educators who care and make them work and teachers have just given up on this kid to the point where he doesn’t even have to sit at desks with the other students. Based on Corbett and Wilson, this boy is not being taught by “good teachers” because they do not control him or the classroom and they don’t care if he does his work or not. When he raises his hand, my teacher says “no” without hearing his question which means she is not willing to help him whenever and however and she is certainly not willing to explain the assignments to him. I was also observing the things around the room like the alphabet cards on the wall, high frequency word bank, math word wall, number line and things like that. I learned on my lunch break that these pictures and learning tools are mandatory around the room because the school is a lower achieving one and these pictures and crafts are used as learning tools to boost their testing scores. Tatum talked about the use of a word wall in his article, “Breaking Down Barriers That Disenfranchise African American Adolescent Readers in Low-Level Tracks.” He said the word wall was, “designed to strengthen the relationship between knowing words and reading words” and that is how my students use the word wall as well.
In contrast to the student who was allowed to do whatever he wanted, we had a guest form a second grade class that was not allowed to on a field trip to the zoo because of his behavior. This boy was not cooperating and the teacher called the school police officer on him to help straighten him out. The boy had to be removed from class and talk to the police officer and the assistant principle before returning to the classroom. Does this show that the teacher cares less about her own student’s education? Although the day was very rough and there was a lot of discipline, the children were great at raising their hand and waiting to be called on even if the teacher wasn’t looking around the room or had no reason to look up. I don’t know why this was their best area of discipline, but it was definitely nice to see because that doesn’t happen in every first grade class. You could also tell who the trouble makers were and who the “angel-like” kids were because of the way the teachers addressed them. When a trouble maker raised their hand the teacher would answer right away with “no” or an annoyed “what?” On the contrary, when a child that was known to behave raised their hand, the teacher politely called on them and was willing to answer any question that came out of their mouth.
Discipline is a huge part of Philadelphia schools and I see that in the classroom I am observing and in the stories that I am hearing from others. I think it is beneficial to be able to be put aside an observe for a little just so you can learn and implement things into your own classroom even if you don’t work in the Philadelphia school system. Whether I choose to teach in Philly or not, this is a great experience because of the exposure I am getting to all the diversity.