Focusing on the classroom and students
Everyday, my teacher comes in and sits and explains what he’s doing for the day to me, usually writing the lesson plan on the board. From what I can tell, he tends to plan as he goes, with a general outline in mind. The first 3 classes are fairly similar in ability and makeup of the student body, with a mixture of student athletes, boyfriend-girlfriend couples, the few students who always participate, and the students who have an “alternative” style. The first period is usually very quiet and the students tend not to participate much, I’m assuming as a result of the time. The second period comes in a little more energetic, and I notice very clear cliques in this particular class. There’s a group of 4 that are clearly in couples and feed off of each other’s energy each day. The front of the room is where a group of the “smart girls” sit, usually very involved in answering questions. There’s a group of girls who sit in the back of the room and I notice that they roll their eyes at a lot of what my CT says, seeming disinterested in school in general. There is also a special needs student with an aid and he tends to provide interesting answers, but is very responsive and respectful to my CT.
After 2nd period, there’s a 10 minute break in which there is always a rotation of my CT’s past students stopping by to chat about their days, complain about other teachers (sometimes), report on accomplishments they’ve made, and the like. My CT is very involved with his past students and usually knows a lot about their home life, interests, and plans after high school. He goes out of his way to make personal connections and bring in materials that will interest the students. For example, one of his past students is in the choir and apparently is very interested “soul music”, so my CT has brought her Nora Jones and Adele CDs that he burns from his computer. It is a very cool dynamic to see.
The third period class usually comes in with snacks and tends to be more rowdy because of the break. This class seems to be filled with a lot of the “cool kids” and a few troublemakers. My CT also has a senior who acts as his aid for this class and I can tell that a lot of the 9th graders sort of look up to him and even show off a little. This class is probably the most responsive during instruction, providing somewhat goofy answers. However, if they get answers right I can tell that they are genuinely motivated to continue answering. I notice this across classes as well. These 3 classes are usually pretty well engaged, but on the day I was completing the observation form my CT was giving a lengthy power point lecture and I noticed a lack of engagement. One of the students who sits in the back even whispered to me that she was “extremely bored” as I was walking around.
The next period is my CT’s 5th period class, which tends to be his most troublesome class to work with. While the school is full inclusion, the majority of students in this particular class have some sort of learning disorder and some have emotional disorders. However, my CT has pointed out to me that a few of the students in this class are professors students and are at a much higher level. This is hard because the class moves much slower and doesn’t elicit much response or discussion. There are a group of 3 boys who sit together and seem sort of uninterested, but get the highest grades on most assessments I have graded. There is one student who sits in the front and has a very hard staying awake and my CT often has to stop the class to ask if she can keep her head up. There’s also a student with an aid in this class and he seems to have trouble with his speech and focus in the classroom. The most interesting observation I made about this class is their interactions with each other. The differences in social status, learning ability, etc. would lead me to think there may be some tension, but the students are VERY respectful of each other and almost seem to not notice the slower instruction and “hiccups” in instruction. I think that’s pretty cool to see.
The last class that I observe is 8th period, the honors class. It is very clear that this class is honors for a few reasons. One is the immediate raising of hands that occurs almost every time there is an opportunity to ask questions about assignments or directions. My CT gives them a separate board with their lesson plan, which usually includes more writing, discussion, and extra homework. I actually wasn’t able to sit back and “observe” this class because I conducted a writing workshop with the students this week. The students brought up their book reviews and I helped them with grammar, structure, and any other concerns they had. This probably gave me a better insight into the group because I was able to talk with them one on one. The students ranged greatly in writing ability, and I was thoroughly impressed with most of their work. In previous classes, I also have experienced their class discussions that often arise out of lecture and it is very cool to see them connect their prior knowledge and experiences to the material. That’s something I don’t see too much of in other classes.
Through observation I got an sense for what it’s like to be a social studies student today, and it seems tit means different things to different people. I experienced many students that clearly were “history kids” and would come up to my CT after class and talk about a TV show he saw about Ancient Egypt or a newspaper article she read about records of early civilizations. And then there were students who rolled their eyes, had no responses when being called on, etc. I think students continue to treat social studies as they do any other class and I didn’t notice any sort of declined interest, even with the decline in testing we discussed in class.