Selections from the Field Ian Earley

Normal Community West High School
Normal Community High School
Methodology & Technology: Mrs. Freeman (Normal West)

What expectations did you have for this component before you made your observations? What was confirmed for you and what was different?

I expected that the methodology of her teaching would be very similar to my teachers in high school. Her methodologies would be very cut and dry: take attendance, lecture, worksheet, move on to the next class. Furthermore, I expected that technology would be nonexistent in this classroom. Our world thrives in the latest technologies but school budgets often do not allow for the newest technologies in the classroom. I was throughly surprised in both respects. Mrs. Freeman had methodology that was engaging, informational, and technology filled. Technology was ripe. Students utilized their own laptops and tablets, the room was equipped with a smart board and a sound system, and videos were used to reinforce what was learned in class.

How did these observations change your perceptions of this component? How do you imagine you will address this issue in your own future classroom? Explain.

It opened my eyes to new methodology strategies and technology implementation. Methodology wise, I would love to employ her idea of learning from case studies. In a unit about The Constitution she used court cases to highlight amendments to The Constitution. Having students study real world examples is the most valuable form of learning. I would like to employ laptop technology into projects and group work. However, I will not allow students to use technology to take notes in my future classes, there is no substitute for paper and pencil. Furthermore, her students used laptops to take exams. I will not condone technology based exams, it is too easy to be academically dishonest.

What did you observe that surprised you? Why?

The use of technology while taking exams frankly shocked me. I was appalled at the fact that students were using their computers to take an exam. They went to an exam website and typed in a specific code to take the exam. For me, taking exams on the internet opens the doors to cheating. Students could google answers in another window, communicate electronically with other classmates about test questions, and copy and paste essay responses. I was shocked because I saw some students doing these things. The instructor employed no way to make sure students were not cheating unless she walked about the classroom.

How was this component treated in each of the observation sites you visited? What was different and what was the same? Why do you think these issues were treated differently in the different sites? Which approach, in your opinion, is best? Why?

The concept of technology was treated exactly the same at both Normal West and Normal Community. They employed the use the same websites, databases, computers, and software. They were the same because both schools are run by the same school district. However, the methodology seemed to be lacking at Normal Community. The instruction seemed very hands off and learning was very student driven. This stems from the fact that I only observed electives such as Business and Photography at Community, I observed the core subjects of History and English at West. The West approach to methodology was far superior, it was more integrated, informational, and engaging.

What is the one thing you will take away from your observations in terms of this specific component? Why did this make an impression on you? How will this make you a good educator?

The ability to engage students in learning is my biggest take away. Mrs. Freeman discussed issues that were important to high school students, such as the freedom of speech in schools. It made an impression on me because the students were in love with the content and whole-heartedly participated because it was relevant to their lives. It will make me a good educator because it is vital to keep students engaged if one wishes to mold them into effective life-long learners.

Professionalism: Mr. Kerr (Normal West)

What expectations did you have for this component before you made your observations? What was confirmed for you and what was different?

I had the expectation that Mr. Kerr would dress like every other male teacher in the book and conduct himself in an unbiased professional manner. Mr. Kerr dressed professionally and had a self-proclaimed "hipster" edge. Monday-Thursday he dressed in slacks and button up shirts and on Fridays he went casual, like most teachers, repping a Normal West shirt and puffy vest. His demeanor and speech were very professional, taking to all of his students with respect. He did not explicitly impose personal views of politics, religion, or education on his students.

How did these observations change your perceptions of this component? How do you imagine you will address this issue in your own future classroom? Explain.

My perceptions did not really change. It is the engrained idea that teachers are to dress professionally and treat their students respectfully. In the future, I will seek to dress professionally but not lose my personal identity in the dress code, like Mr. Kerr. Furthermore, I will treat all students with respect, trying to take into account their cultural, economic, and linguistic backgrounds into consideration. Additionally, I will not impose my personal views onto my students.

What did you observe that surprised you? Why?

There were not any actions by Mr. Kerr that negatively surprised me. I was most intrigued by his own personal flavor that he added to his dress, classroom, and language. He dressed in a way that was professional, but unique. He did not look like someone from corporate cookie cutter America. He implicitly presented his music taste posters plastering his wall, like The Smiths, Radiohead, and Bruce Springsteen. He also talked to his students using slang and popular language from today's young people's vocabulary. This made him able to relate to his students and made him look approachable to his students.

How was this component treated in each of the observation sites you visited? What was different and what was the same? Why do you think these issues were treated differently in the different sites? Which approach, in your opinion, is best? Why?

Once again this component was not treated very differently at both sites that I observed. Professionalism in the education field is a vey universal idea that nearly all teachers adhere too. There were no teachers at Normal West or Community that were not professionally dressed or did not have a professional demeanor. Neither sight was better than the other in terms of professionalism.

What is the one thing you will take away from your observations in terms of this specific component? Why did this make an impression on you? How will this make you a good educator?

I will take away the idea that professionalism influences how students respect you and how responsive they are to your teaching. It is important to conduct myself in a professional manner verbally and non verbally, talking to students with respect and with cultural considerations. I will become a good educator because professionalism is a driving force in working with a aspects of the education system. A teacher must be professional in dealing with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents.

Understanding Learners: Mrs. Freymann (Normal Community)

What expectations did you have for this component before you made your observations? What was confirmed for you and what was different?

I expected that equal attention would be given to all students despite any differences, such as race, gender, language, or exceptionalities. I assumed Mrs. Freymann would be responsive to student needs, whether a major need or a subordinate need. I expected that there would be different mediums of teaching to some degree and no expectation to engage multiple intelligences. It was confirmed that she did not treat students any differently because of any differences. However, she was not really responsive to the needs of the students because she sat at her desk for nearly the entire period on all four occasions that observed her class. She made no extra efforts to address student needs, unless they came to her. She used different mediums to present information to different learning styles but there were no indications of altering her teaching to cater to multiple intelligences.

How did these observations change your perceptions of this component? How do you imagine you will address this issue in your own future classroom? Explain.

Once again, I was not heavily moved by my observations. In this day and age, students are different in so many ways than ever before and no matter how different a student may seem from the typical kid, they all need to be given equal attention. It is also important to be responsive to student needs. If a teacher is not responsive, students might fear approaching the teacher for additional help in the future. Adapting instructions to accommodate certain learning styles is also a vital skill to employ in the classroom. In the future, I will employ all of these tactics because I see them to be vital in the teacher-student relationship and the success of the student. However, engagement of multiple intelligences will not explicitly be addressed. I do not really adhere to Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

What did you observe that surprised you? Why?

I was most surprised by Mrs. Freymann's lack of engagement with students. If teachers do not want to engage students about the multiple intelligences, I can understand that. The theory of multiple intelligences is a controversial theory and not well received by everyone. However, to give instructions at the beginning of class and leave students to their own devices without responsiveness from the teacher is no more than adequate. In general, if a student is struggling on an assignment, it is not too difficult to notice. In this case, an educator should go to that student and be responsive to what is impeding them. In this classroom, the students would only come to her with concerns, and those numbers of students were scarce. I fear that some students may feel she is unapproachable because of possible unresponsiveness in the past.

How was this component treated in each of the observation sites you visited? What was different and what was the same? Why do you think these issues were treated differently in the different sites? Which approach, in your opinion, is best? Why?

At both sites there was no mention of strategies to cater to the multiple intelligences. Either side showed no indications of mistreatment of the students based on any differences between them. At West, the teachers were very responsive to the needs of students, often walking about the room and asking if they needed help. They also were very accepting of different learning styles, creating different assignments to suit different learning styles. At Normal Community, I just did not feel any of that. Don't get me wrong about these criticisms, their teachers were still very knowledgable and good at what they do. There was not a personal connection with the students and teachers tried to be responsive to the learning need of the majority, rather than the individual. This may be due to bigger class sizes at Normal Community. According to Mrs. Freymann, Normal Community has over 600 more students than West. This higher enrollment may have an effect of how education is catered to a student's personal needs. Its hard to say which approach was the best. Normal West met more of the requirements but Normal Community did the best they could with a higher student population. There are so many circumstances that influence the understanding of learners. It is not about who did it better but rather being able to adapt instruction to the students you have with the resources you have.

What is the one thing you will take away from your observations in terms of this specific component? Why did this make an impression on you? How will this make you a good educator?

The biggest take away is being able to cater to students specific needs in terms of learning styles. What works for one student might just not click with another. It made an impression when I saw how one particular student was always given a hand out with instructions that the teacher presented verbally to all other students. It shows how much the teacher wanted this student to succeed. She went out of her way to create additional mediums of directions to help the student do better in her class. It will make me a good educator because it will allow all may students to receive a fair education. Keep in mind fair does not mean equal. It is important that all students be equipped with the tools they need to succeed.

Management of the physical environment: Mrs. Pendleton (Normal Community)

What expectations did you have for this component before you made your observations? What was confirmed for you and what was different?

I expected a cookie cutter classroom with desks in rows, a few gaudy inspirational posters, and students doing as they please. I was not correct in either of my presumptions. The seating was a strange auditorium style platform with tables on each step. Office chairs lined the desks. This was a business class and the seating did have a corporate vibe to it. There were no motivational posters on the wall, rather pop culture posters. These posters, about One Direction to the Chicago Bulls, wrapped the room. Lastly, the students were the best behaved class that I had observed. Students were properly equipped for class, held respectful discussions, and entered and left the room with poise.

How did these observations change your perceptions of this component? How do you imagine you will address this issue in your own future classroom? Explain.

My observations allowed me to realize that teachers can decorate their room in a way that is not boring or prison-like. By creating an aesthetically pleasing learning environment, students are more likely to be receptive to the class content. I will address this by making my classroom a conducive learning space that has vibrant colors, pop culture references, and ultimately have a classroom that students want to come into for learning. In terms of teacher's response, I will develop effective procedural systems and classroom management plans.

What did you observe that surprised you? Why?

The individual student routines were most impressive. I have never observed a better group of students. This was a business class and the students conducted themselves like proper businessmen and businesswomen. They were prepared for class as if it was a business meeting. They also led discussion in the form of a business meeting. Discussion often contained a facilitator to sift through the comments and direct the conversation. When talking to fellow classmates, the students conducted themselves with respect and treated others as professional colleagues.

How was this component treated in each of the observation sites you visited? What was different and what was the same? Why do you think these issues were treated differently in the different sites? Which approach, in your opinion, is best? Why?

In terms, of the physical space both high schools had classes that were warm and inviting and had others that looked like large prison cells. Mr. Kerr (Normal West) and Mrs. Pendleton (Normal Community) had classrooms that were the most conducive to learning. The students were both equally prepared and well behaved at both institutions. Teacher responses were similar at both institutions as well. The differences are not over whelming. I would assume since both high schools are in the same district that they have similar guidelines in terms of decor and teacher response training.

What is the one thing you will take away from your observations in terms of this specific component? Why did this make an impression on you? How will this make you a good educator?

My biggest take away is the how the students behaved. Mrs. Pendleton stressed that her class was a business class and that the students needed to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Im not a business teacher, but every classroom teacher, like myself, should educate their students how to be professional. It will make me a better educator by showing my students how to conduct themselves respectfully and professionally, in turn minimizing disciplinary problems. A classroom that thrives on respect will allow learning to serve as the focal point of the class.

Diversity and Demographics: Data from normal community

The Data

Ethnic Diversity: 67.6% White, 11.3% Black, 7.1% Hispanic, 8.1% Asian, 5.9% Other

a. Teacher Gender: 80.9% Female, 19.1% Male b. Teacher Diversity: 93.9% White, 2.5% Black, 1.7% Hispanic

Demographics: a. Area: Urban b. Feeder Schools: Parkside and Kingsley (50% of Jr. High populations), Most of Chiddix Jr. High and Evans Jr. High c. School Type: Traditional

What expectations did you have for this component before you made your observations? What was confirmed for you and what was different?

I expected the majority of students to be White, which a good number of Black students, and other ethnicities would be underrepresented. Additionally, I expected the average teacher to be a White female. My expectations of diversity were both proved to be correct by my observations and the Illinois State Report Card. All three teachers that I observed at Normal Community met my average description for a teacher. The data also proved me correct; however, I was shocked to see that male teachers only made up 19.1%.

How did these observations change your perceptions of this component? How do you imagine you will address this issue in your own future classroom? Explain.

To be honest my conceptions of ethnicity were not really shaken. However, I was taken back at the lack of male teachers. In my mind, I was thinking that there would be a 60-40 split between male and female teachers. As a future educator, there is no way to really filter the ethnicities that come into the school because its all based on where they live. Eventually, I aspire to become a school administrator. As an administrator, I would like to see a representation of teachers that was similar to the diversity of students.

What did you observe that surprised you? Why?

I was surprised at the lack of male teachers at Normal Community. In my nine hours of observation, I can't say I remember passing a single male teacher. All three teachers that I observed were women. In terms other teacher diversity, it was heavily Caucasian. I saw very few teachers of color, surprisingly I was able to be in a classroom with one of the few Hispanic teachers at the high school.

How was this component treated in each of the observation sites you visited? What was different and what was the same? Why do you think these issues were treated differently in the different sites? Which approach, in your opinion, is best? Why?

Both Normal West and Normal Community had a similar distribution of ethnicities amongst students. While observing at Normal West, I remember seeing many more male teachers than at Normal Community. I would even go out on a limb to say that there were more male teachers than female teachers. The best approach to teacher diversity is to have a good mix of genders and ethnicities that are representative of the student population.

What is the one thing you will take away from your observations in terms of this specific component? Why did this make an impression on you? How will this make you a good educator?

Beating a dead horse, having a teacher population that is diverse and representative of students is the most important take away from my observations. Teacher diversity is frankly lacking. It is important to have teachers that students can identify with and have someone that they can look up towards. Being a role model is not explicitly in the job description of a teacher but is one of their most important roles. I cannot change the diversity amongst teachers in my school, but I can serve as an effective role model for my students.

Credits:

Created with images by Mizianitka - "pens colors to write" • justine warrington - "school" • Dean Hochman - "brick" • FredCintra - "Control is an Option to Command" • scronfinixio - "groom suit style" • NEC Corporation of America - "Education - Creative Commons" • GSLCMedia - "kids crafts arts and crafts" • geralt - "photo montage faces photo album"

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