The first time I was in a classroom due to the ED-100 class was at Beachwood Middle School where I observed two eighth grade science classes. This was an amazing first experience and it only started to cement my belief that I indeed would love to teach. The first class period was a class on Earth Sciences. The teacher, Mr. Singer, had a wonderful lesson planned on tectonic plates and how different plate collisions caused different reactions in our physical world. The things that impressed me so much about this first lesson was the way he approached it while keeping the kids interested throughout its entirety. Utilizing the tools at his disposal Mr. Singer was able to guide his students through an educational journey. The first tool used was the MacBooks that all the students had. Mr. Singer had pre-prepared a PowerPoint presentation that had blanks on the student copies. He had the students use this for their notes and every time a major topic was presented he told the class to check their blanks. Then the class would dutifully look down and fill in any answers from the lecture Mr. Singer had just given. I believe the MacBooks were a very well utilized tool in this case. But at the same time I am personally wary of them. I appreciate the fact that all information a teacher could ever utilize is the push of a button away. Yet I feel as if having computers in the class could be a huge distraction. Especially in this day and age when many kids are craving stimulation and a computer and answer that crave more than a science lecture. Another reason I am not the biggest fan is because, for me personally, I find it so much harder to read longer passages or assignments off of a screen. Having a physical copy of a text gives me much more freedom to take notes and mark key points then if I had to read off of a screen. The second tool Mr. Singer utilized in this lecture was a three dimensional map of all of the mountain ranges and underwater trenches throughout the world. After having the kids come look and touch this map he had them take out maps that they were assigned to draw on their own to compare and correct mistakes made on theirs. I really enjoyed this first class and I was excited about the second period. The second period was a Honors Physics class of eighth graders. Mr. Singer's plans for this class were to review the lab on Newton's Second Law and then give the class a post lab worksheet that everyone would work on together. Mr. Singer started the class with reviewing the lab. He asked the simple question, "Why did we do the lab yesterday? What is the point?" Off of this relatively easy question the class went off into an in depth discussion about everything they knew about the law and the results of the experiment. After discussing the experiment and the sources of error, such as friction, the class received the worksheet. Mr. Singer then went around the class and individually helped any student who may need it. He even asked if I’d like to help and I jumped on the opportunity. It was a great first experience in the field and I cannot wait for more to come.
Cleveland Height High school was the second visit we made as a class. The first thing I noticed about Heights was the very old building in which the kids went to school. Dr. Shutkin made a point of saying that the school was being torn down. Personally I found that very sad. In my opinion, going to school in an old building promotes pride in the community. This is because it is very easy to look back and see the amazing amount of history that has taken place in the very halls in which you are walking. While new classrooms and updated technology certainly won’t hold anyone back. But at the same time losing all that history has to hurt a sense of community. Once inside I visited an Early College Program science class. This was interesting in itself. The idea that kids can get through all of high school in two years bothers me. I know the amount of stress I was put under in high school and to compact my high school academic experience would have been impossible. On top of that the classroom I visited was not exactly invigorating. The teacher had a power point up which students were supposed to take word for word notes from. No one in the class seemed interested in the topic and there was no true teacher student interaction. Overall it was a neutral experience. It was nice having my first experience in a high school. But there are definitely certain things I would work to change.
The final visit which was taken by the entire class was to Agnon Elementary. This was a unique experience for me, mostly because I had never been in a younger classroom as an observer. The first thing I noticed was the strong religious identity the school had. This was comfortable for me seeing as I have gone to religious based schools since I was in kindergarten. In my opinion, it is not necessarily the religious aspect that makes these schools what they are. But instead the sense of community one feeling when being in a smaller private environment. It was nice to see these children practice their faith so openly in a powerful learning environment. For my actual observation I was place in a second grade math class. At the beginning all of the class was together as a younger woman led them in a basic overview of geometric concepts. They talk about how two dimensional drawings could be transformed to three dimensions. At this point of the class a second instructor appeared. He came and took away a group of six “advanced” kids to perform an accelerated lesson. This is where I went as well. We walked down the hall and into another classroom where the teacher already had set out wooden shapes such as pyramids or cylinders. He then had the students describe the shapes in as many ways they could. This included faces, points, and ridges. He was very engaged in the exercise and gave an aura that he genuinely cared about the children’s learning experience. This was refreshing seeing as at that age I was not always interested in whatever I was supposed to be learning. This hands on approach certainly kept the kids not just engaged but eager to move from step to step. The next step was for the kids to take a paper with a pattern drawn on it, cut it out, and then tape it up into whatever three dimensional shape it was supposed to become. This exercise was a smooth transition from the original classroom into the advanced room. The students would go on to make a handful of shapes and then describe them all the same way they had done before. The end of the period eventually broke up the whole project and all of the kids politely cleaned up and thanked the teacher. There are a lot of people with countless different opinions on separating children’s learning environments thru grouping. While the negatives can definitely be argued, I believe the way Agnon has handled this specific case has been outstanding. These kids got the opportunity to spend time with their class as a whole. But at the same time it was recognized that these students are gifted in math. It would be unfair to not allow them to grow to their fullest potential. I would say that Agnon did a very good job of allowing community through the class as well as promoting those who are more naturally talented.
From the minute I arrived at Laurel I knew I was in for a learning experience. The school was like nothing I had ever seen. It was as if someone had decided to build a castle in the middle of some random sub division. The historical architecture brought immediate prestige to the eye of any beholder. As I walked in there was a royal air about the place. Everyone acted proper in front of the ever watching paintings of headmasters past and present. This all-girls school was like nothing I had ever experienced. The first class I was to observe in was a sixth grade earth science class, which I had to be led to through a labyrinth of intersecting hallways and staircases. As I stepped through the door the class fell silent as forty odd eyes rushed up to me. Ms. Ahmad kindly greeted and introduced me to the class as a student who would be observing class for the rest of semester. As I quietly shuffled through backpacks to the back of the class the giggles began to reign. It was quite weird being one of a handful of men on the campus. Even with these twelve year olds distracted, there was a great lesson taught on endangered animals. The class learned different restrictions that would make an animal endangered or not as well as what is being done to help. At the end of the lesson the class split up and used their personal Chrome Books to do independent research on an animal which would be presented during the next class period. I left this classroom excited with the prospects of this school. My second class was an all senior AP Physics class. I walking in intimidated because at this point of my life I have not reached that level of physics. How could I observe a class that I can’t comprehend? But my fears were wiped away by the fact that my teacher had total control of the class in a friendly yet confident way. He seemed to be a friend with all the girls but at the same time they showed the utmost respect for the man. In a highly advanced class there was a lot of fun, which was nice to see. The final classroom I went to on my visits was a sophomore honors chemistry class. This was the biggest class I had been in as well as the least controlled. While the instructor was a very nice woman, she seemed to try to be too friendly with the girls and didn’t want to do anything to make them not like her. While I respect the fact that teachers should be approachable and on the good side of students, there has to be a line drawn where their authority is final. This class went over power point slides on acid base titration. I was excited by this visit and had certain things in mind for the next few times I went back.
One thing I noticed on my first visit was the amazing amount of participation in each of the classrooms I visited. The kids seemed so eager to answer any question at all. I was curious about why this was so I started paying closer attention to the body language of the kids. This attitude was definitely most prevalent in the sixth grade classroom. Ms. Ahmad could simply as what the day of the week was and every single student would raise their hand anxiously awaiting the chance to be called on. As time went on I observed there was no physical reward or even verbal reward other than a “Good Job” on a correct answer. So why would these kids buy into this method of question and answer with such vigor? I came to the conclusion that a majority of this excitement to learn is from the overall attitude of the school. A K-12 school has the ability to set standards from the youngest age that they expect the same girls to exhibit once they are seniors in high school. Having a faculty that has bought into this idea is the only chance of making it work. Every educator I met at Laurel seemed genuinely interested in what the students had to say. This school wide attitude of respect for the thoughts of the children was very welcoming and it allows girls of all ages to display their ideas proudly.
During my second visit to Laurel I picked up some information while observing the physics class. I learned that Laurel’s high school science program often implemented tracking. Tracking is when students will have the opportunity to remain with the same instructor for multiple years. This can be found a lot in small, private schools. This is because they simply don’t have the need to hire so many teachers for their small amount of students. While this may be what had happened at Laurel I would completely support the idea in any school. The closeness which was felt between Mr. Carpenter and his class was palpable. This promoted a healthy learning environment where the girls felt even more comfortable sharing their ideas in front of the class. Even in one of the hardest high school subjects. While there may be downsides of tracking, such as being caught with a teacher that they may not mesh with. But I do feel the pros outweigh the cons and that was certainly the reality in this physics class at Laurel.
At first, being a male going into an all-girl school was a unique and overwhelming experience. It was interesting to walk into an all-girls classroom and having all eyes on me. But throughout my experience at Laurel I started to realize that I liked the idea of a single sex school. Laurel was missing something that I felt I had dealt with my entire life during school. And that was the tension of always trying to impress the opposite sex. It was easy for these girls to feel free of pressure during one of the most stressful times in their life. They could have conversations with just other girls and have school as the top priority. It was a very healthy learning environment. While I really enjoyed my experience at a Co-ed school I now completely understand the rave reviews of single sex schools!
All three of the men and women I observed had very different teaching styles. In my sixth grade science class the instructor had a very friendly conversational style of teaching. She openly addressed any questions that her students had and was quick to have an interactive answer. This happy style of teaching worked really well for her twelve year old audience. They all looked up to her and respected her. My physics teacher also commanded respect in the classroom. His style was more from the perspective of having the kids work through problems and him being there as a guide. This style worked for him because he was teaching highly talented students. The chemistry teacher had more of a “molded” teaching style. As in she taught straight from power point and expected the students to keep up in the notebook. This was the least successful style I observed.
I couldn’t be happier with how my observations went at Laurel School. It was a great experience to get in the classroom as a freshman. It did nothing but reinforce my belief that I want to teach. Seeing the different ways that teachers worked with students of different ages made me think about what my teaching habits will be like with the different types of kids I will run into in my career. It was also good to see other schools along with Laurel because I believe the more opinions you can form on a topic, such as how a successful school looks, the more educated of a decision can be made. I cannot wait to continue my study of education.