MY CLINICAL EXPERIENCE Rachel Ford - Fall '16

"All are teachers. All are learners."

My clinical experiences at Normal West, Normal Community, and McHenry High School left a wide range of effects on me. The observations were eye-opening first-and-foremost; as well as educational, shocking at times, provided understanding, showed me things in the classroom I had never seen, and some were even disheartening. This recounts the information I gathered both beneficial to me and not.

"This late in my career, if the kids don't care, then its likely I don't care"
"Your I will is more important than your IQ"
"Here at MCHS we like to maintain a give-and-take relationship with our observers or visiting colleagues. So at the end of the day, your cooperating teacher will say, "Okay, what can I do better?" Because no one is too good for improvement." - Eric Blake
The good and the bad of these 20 hours provided me with even more drive to better myself as an adult, caring citizen, community member, and a future teacher for my students.

"PROCESS > PRODUCT"

This project is for gathering the information from my observations and making sense of how I can change to apply the experiences to myself and my teaching. The reflection process is ongoing for teachers - it is one of the first things they hammer into your brain in the PETE program.

By the end of this blog I will have connected the 5 components of field experience observation to myself as a physical education teacher in an gymnasium and a health teacher in an academic classroom. The following questions will guide my reflection of these 5 components of observations:

  • Methodology & Technology
  • Professionalism
  • Understanding Learners
  • Management of Physical Environment
  • Diversity & Demographics
  1. What expectations did you have for this component before you made your observations? What was confirmed for you and what was different?
  2. 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.
  3. What did you observe that surprised you? Why?
  4. How was this component treated in each of the observation sites you visited?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?

Methodology & Technology:

During my observations I expected to see teachers using technology such as smart phones, smart boards, maybe a classroom set of laptops, and possibly heart rate monitors in PE classrooms. These expectations were based off of how my high school had began to use technology in classrooms; like Google Chromebooks, laptops for teachers to reserve from the library, and teachers began to incorporate smart phones into lessons. I also know that my younger sister who is a junior in high school right now is allowed to be on her phone throughout most of the school day, which is very different than the school policy for cell phones just three years ago. During observations I was shocked to see that students were on their phones constantly. One day the PE teacher I was observing at Normal West had said there were problems with the school's wifi and for many teachers that could mean skipping a lesson but PE teachers don't need to rely on the technology. Teachers are depending heavily on electronically run lessons. It is important to plan for situations in which technology or another part of the lesson does not go as planned. Or I, as a PE teacher, should consider the weather for a lesson that is supposed to be outside or would be better run outside.

I was hoping to see how technology would be used in the PE classes in order to get an idea of how I could use it in the future. I saw one of the teachers use the heart rate monitors for an elective dance class. It was an older kind of monitor that students have to lift their shirts up and strap it around their sternum area. This is obviously a little uncomfortable for both the teachers and the kids but it made me realize you have to use whatever you got. I think I would allow students to use have their phones during cardio days to listen to music . However, in my health class I would definitely have room rules for the students to only use their phones if I said they were allowed to/for lesson purposes - but I am guessing that is difficult to control.

It shocked me that the students were allowed to constantly be on their phones and how much school policy has altered in such a short time.

All of the schools had similar policies on the phones and availability to laptops. Most teachers have a smart board or a projector on the ceiling - upgraded from the huge, carted projectors. Like I said, most teachers are now relying heavily on technology in the classroom.

Something different I experienced was in a history class and all of the students had a laptop either of their own or one provided by the school. I asked the teacher about this and she said if the student or their family were unable to buy their kid a laptop that it was $100 to rent one for the year.

Something I'll take away from my observations of this component is knowing to have a back-up plan for tech lessons and materials. I also have formed my own opinion on how technology can be beneficial and hindering to a lesson after seeing the prevalence of it in the schools now. Technology like heart rate monitors, pedometers, and laptops will be helpful for assessment and communication of results to my students and their parents.

Professionalism:

For some reason I expected more professionalism from the teachers in the high schools in Normal compared to in my high school. In the PETE program we are expected to handle ourselves with total professionalism. I think Illinois State and Metcalf formed an impression on me that everyone in the field cares as much as the teachers/professors I work with. Sadly, that is just not true.

Some of the observations were upsetting because of how seriously I, and everyone around me, has been taking the field and other teachers are just not caring about their own career . For instance, one of the PE teachers actually said "I do it for the coaching - ya know, just roll out the balls in class, it's easier." So, that was discouraging to me since I am so excited about changing the lazy "roll out the balls" stereotype for PE. I want my students to take me seriously and understand the value of what I do in class everyday with every lesson.

Besides the negative attitude I might have experienced, I was also surprised by the amount of time that some PE classes were unsupervised. We are taught about constantly being aware of what is going on in your classroom - especially in physical education - for liability and injury reasons. Another thing that I noted was being surprised by how some of the kids would talk to their teachers. There was a lot of cursing that was just shrugged off that would have never flown with any of my teachers.

For the fourth reflection question under this component I want to focus on the time I spent in the transitions classroom at my high school. These kids are ages 18-21 and their academics consisted of learning to use the internet and adding prices then trying to count back change. For example, if their total was $8.03 and they paid with a $10 bill they had to figure their change with fake money cut outs. Two of the seven students in the class did not even know where to start. The teacher was at one point shouting in the students face and just saying "No, that's not right" instead of trying to get them to think differently. I obviously don't know better than her on how to teach these individuals but it seemed inappropriate to me and would not want someone to treat my kid like that in a classroom.

The cursing issue was handled similarly in all situations - it didn't even get a reaction whenever I heard it. I am not so against cursing but I think there are times, places, and people that you should respect enough to think of something else to say. I will not condone my students saying, "Shit Miss Ford, what the hell are we doing?" Some of the things said in an algebra class between the teacher and students as a class in jest may have been funny but that does not make it appropriate. The teacher did not seem to care about whether he offended someone or not and you can never tell when that is happening until you cross a line.

I am taking my education very seriously so I would like to be taken seriously and respected - no matter the age of the kids I end up teaching. I am committed to carrying myself as a respected physical education teacher and have expectations for my students, such as: talking to me and others appropriately, caring about the individuals in my classroom, and helping them succeed best I can.

Understanding Learners:

When thinking about this component prior to observations I thought of myself as a high school student. I expected the classrooms and students to be similar to me and my experience and it was except for the technology. I feel like even when I was in high school we had so much to be distracted by and now there is ten times that amount but these kids are learning the same stuff that I did. The growth is only going to continue and there will be a divide between parent-student or teacher-student because of the total difference in schooling and expectations.

Observations showed me that the maturity level of most high school students will continue to lack. The excuses I heard in the PE classes were all too familiar to the peers' who I knew in high school that didn't care or participate. Like, not having shoes, fake doctors notes, going to the bathroom for fifteen minutes, and the teachers wouldn't question them.

Besides the inappropriate language mentioned above that I saw as a problem, I was surprised to see no other real issues in behavior. I didn't see any of the teachers really exercise discipline at both Normal West and Normal Community.

The discipline I did see happen at MCHS was the teacher separating one of the five students from the class to do his work for himself because he had copied someone else's method. At Normal Community, before one of the government classes I was observing, there were a few students from student government that came to tell the teacher about some foul play in the student election going on (of all the things). She said she would reiterate the parameters of the election but the other candidate would still be able to continue running. The excuses I heard in the Normal West PE classes were not given a second look, the teacher just said "Okay, it's not my grade, [then to me] he does that all the time." While that may be true, I think the teacher should care that one of their students shows up to PE claiming not to have a clean uniform or gym shoes more frequently than not? Maybe that's just me.

Obviously every teacher has a different level of patience and tolerance when it comes to excuses, late work, class rules, and bad behavior. Along with that, all teachers allow a different level of fun and goofing around in their classrooms and students will ALWAYS take full advantage of those lines. I think the best approach is "sticking to your guns." Both positive and negative behaviors should be handled individually but should always correlate with your class rules.

Something I take away from this component is being aware of the excuses students make. Keeping track of it and communicating with them when it becomes unacceptable. Life happens but I will hold my students responsible for their participation, actions, language, and try to influence their character for the better. I always have said that I want to help these students become respectable, functional, physically literate adults and community members.

Management of Physical Environment:

For this component I want to focus more directly on the management of the gymnasium environment. I was thinking about the equipment, locker rooms, students, the fact that there would be up to three or four classes of 40-50 kids in one gym, and the way those four teachers would handle sharing and organization.

Most teachers took attendance as the students walked in. This is easier than waiting for everyone because that takes more time than necessary, but there are so many kids in a physical education class and they are all showing up at different times, it may be easy to lose track. The classes did not have warm ups which is something I plan to do in my classes depending on the activities for the day. I was glad to see technology like heart rate monitors being used in the classes and I think they were distributed well. They were numbered and everyone in class had a reserved number and had been previously instructed on how to put them on so a lot of time was saved and it is a great assessment tool.

I was surprised to see unsupervised locker rooms; and even unsupervised class time. I feel like so many issues can arise in locker rooms from experience and just knowing the maturity level of the students and how vulnerable people can be, physically and mentally, while dressing and undressing.

One day that I observed, three of the PE teachers were having a "switch classes" day. So, the dance students, strength and conditioning students, and sport fitness class could participate in either elective besides their own. The teachers AND students all had positive attitudes about this activity and it went very smoothly but that is probably due to trial and error. There are multiple gyms and rooms for the PE department at all three of the schools I observed in. They all have two gymnasiums, a cardio room, a dance room, and a strength and conditioning weight room. I didn't see much equipment management really except for the heart rate monitors mentioned above at West and a bag of pinnies and footballs for a class at Normal Community.

Disciplinary action was pretty similar across the three sites - the kids were all participating and not doing anything that would require much of a scold. The students treated the equipment with respect and in a timely manner (i.e. in cardio room on machines, with heart rate monitors, and free weights). Regardless of the PE class that I was in, the students listened to instructions and did what they were asked which provided good time management and active learning time for the teachers class that day.

One thing I take away from observing the physical environments is that I should remember to always supervise what my class is doing. It will help me management-wise to establish routines for stretching, attendance, and cardio days such as squad lines. I should have clear and simple rules that every student is expected to abide by. Lastly, I should utilize as much of the space provided to me as I can to improve activity level and opportunities to respond.

Diversity & Demographics:

Most people think about diversity and associate it strictly to race but it encompasses much more than that. A school's student body can be diverse with physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, socioeconomic situations, visual and auditory hindrances, language, and culture diversity. I expected the presence of Hispanic, African-american, white, and Asian/pacific islander races but did not think there would be students who could not speak/understand English. I observed this twice, once at Normal Community and at Normal West, both experienced in the PE classroom. They did not understand what the instructions were and one of the days there was a quiz that she could not read. The woman teaching said, "Sometimes I have no idea what to do with her." I hope to put more effort into my teaching efficacy than that.

The transitions classroom at MCHS really put this component under a new light for me. I had never observed an intellectual disability classroom and I had gone to high school with some of these students. There was a such a wide range of ability in this classroom. Some can not talk to other people, others do not understand feelings or sarcasm or discipline, but all of them are learning the same things. The five classes they have are finance/budgeting, technology, health and wellness, reading/writing, and a field experience course where the teachers bring them to a grocery store and they work for a short time. I will not be certified to instruct students such as this but I gained more of an understanding on how they handle their school work and themselves in social situations such as teacher-student relationships and peer relationships. These kids could possibly be in one of my general physical education classes and I will need to be very clear about instruction, try to keep them calm and organized, and be aware of their classmates and how they are treating them.

I was surprised to see physical disabilities such as dwarfism but I did observe two students (sisters) in a general physical education class. They were taking the dance elective at Normal West and I observed their class two times. One day was an activity for homecoming that involved walking all over the school in a group on a kind of scavenger hunt. They were able to finish the activity because it was mostly walking but it took them a much longer time than the other students and they seemed incredibly fatigued. They also had a kind of speech enhancer but you could understand them just fine. Another day I was with them during a zumba unit in dance while using the heart rate monitors. They cannot move as fast as the music and so the adaptation for them instead of dancing was just to jog in place for a majority of the time so that they can keep up their heart rates.

The twin sisters at West who presented with dwarfism were not treated too differently from the other students. They did leave the classroom about ten minutes early so they could change and make it to their next class on time. I'm assuming they had IEP's written for them but if they are just jogging in place in class then what are they assessed on? In the transitions classroom at MCHS there is plenty of homework assigned but there are no due dates and a completion grade is recorded. At Normal Community the non-English speaker was not handled at all which is sad because now that's much lesser of a quality experience for the foreign exchange student.

I think these issues were all treated differently because the individuals are so different. I think the teachers involved all have different experiences with diverse students and possibly even none. I know my mother, certified as a biology teacher, began as an aide in a behavioral disorder classroom and she is now teaching in the transitions classroom. So it has a lot to do with attitude and caring about the students you are teaching no matter their diversity.

What I will take away from my observations of this component is more awareness of the vast ways that a student body can be diverse. More of a cognitive sensitivity and understanding towards those who have intellectual disabilities and the methodology of their teachers. This will make me a better educator because whether or not I will teach different classes from those instructors, their methods are useful to me and I can learn from those teachers and even students. Lastly, to always care equally about the individuals in my classroom and making sure they are receiving quality instruction in the best way for them.

Credits:

Created with images by mrsdkrebs - "2012-240 #6WordMission" • Kathleen Tyler Conklin - "Henry David Thoreau quote - Library Way - NY City" • PublicDomainPictures - "classroom students school" • anno.malie - "Love diversity"

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