The Clinical Experience Alex Simko and Normal West Community High School

I completed all of my clinical experience hours at Normal West Community High School. I was fortunate enough to work in depth with a teacher in my field of study; therefore, I learned much more than I probably would have otherwise. I was able to ask specific questions and observe teaching techniques that included methodology, professionalism, understanding learners, management of environment and behavior, and social diversity and demographics. In each of these areas, I gained a wealth of knowledge that I will put to use as a future educator.

Methodology and Technology

Every educator bestows his or her knowledge upon students a little bit differently. This process is considered methodology. I am not new to a classroom environment as I have taught over 100 students through various after school enrichment classes as well as religious education classes for a multitude of grade levels. However, I am new to a high school environment. Most of the methodology that I observed was in line with what I had previously used in my classrooms, however, lesson plans and classroom management were adapted for high school aged students. Most of the students I observed were Freshmen, which slightly different from the middle school aged students I had taught previously. After observing for a number of hours, I developed a clear understanding of teacher preparation, learning objectives, presentation and content development, communication, organization, student accountability, and the technology that was used in the classroom.

Teacher Preparation

I was fortunate enough to observe a Health class in which technology was the main material used. Although the students rarely used their computers unless they were taking some type of exam, the teacher used technology often. She would often give presentations from a Powerpoint presentation on a Smart Board, during which the students were to fill out a guided notes packet regarding the subject matter in that unit. I felt that this was a relatively economical way to study due to the low cost of supplies after the initial investment in the computer technology. Students were not required to purchase any additional materials for the class (such as heart rate monitors, etc.) and the teacher was able to form her lessons plans from anywhere in the school because of the digital nature. Online textbooks were also used, albeit not often due to the fact that the subject matter was out of date. Due to the fact that the textbooks were rendered relatively useless, it became clear that it was up to the teacher to relay most of the information to the students. The teacher had an excellent understanding of her subject matter and was more than willing to share her knowledge; however, health education can be controversial at times (mainly int he sexual education unit). The teacher was able to effectively answer questions in an age appropriate manner as well as expand on statements and connections that the students tried to make themselves. If she found that she was unable to answer a question for any sort of reason, she would instruct the student about where to go to find reliable information. By having an excellent rapport with the students, the teacher was able to keep her classroom under control and relatively attentive. Not all students want to know about health, but she made it interesting enough that it encouraged many students to participate in one way or another. For example, at the beginning of class, she would often ask if students had any questions about assignments or the lesson from the previous day. If there were no questions, she would move on the new lesson. After going through a Powerpoint, completing a classroom activity, or allowing a guest speaker to give a presentation, she would allow more time for questions and clarification regarding grades or any upcoming assignments. Each of the units covered within the class blended nicely into each other, especially the drug unit, the mental health unit, and the sex unit. Due to those units all having some similar themes, she taught them in succession which helped students internalize the subject matter.

Objectives

The classroom instructor made the classroom objectives and learning objectives incredibly clear. Tests were based almost solely upon the guided notes and materials the students could study later. Although she incorporated plenty of classroom activities to mix up the routine and to keep students interested, the assessments clearly mirrored the objectives set at the beginning of each unit. The guided notes sheet at the beginning of each unit served as the study guide for any test or assessment the students may have later in the class. Additionally, the teacher made it extremely clear what behaviors would and would not be tolerated in the classroom, however, she accomplished this by encouraging students to use their critical thinking skills and to think before they ask or comment on something said in class.

Presentation/Content Development

The classroom instructor usually kept a fair amount of uniformity throughout her lessons. She would usually start class with some sort of greeting and allow the students to ask her questions. She would also clarify and discrepancies about grades or assignments. Then she would move to the actual lesson of the day. She used multiple methodologies to teach the students depending on the lesson, but most often they included guided notes, guest speakers, or informational videos. Occasionally she would assign group projects, but due to the size of the class, this was rare. She would always try to relate what was being taught to real world examples, occasionally telling stories of situations she experienced in the past. Due to the nature of Health, it is relatively easy to use multiple relatable examples. Powerpoint presentations were used extremely often because they could be uploaded to the class website so they could be viewed at a later date. Most of the time, her lessons were presentation based with some discussion throughout and again after the presentation was finished. Most of the discussion included clarification questions from students. Overall, most of the 50 minute class period was devoted to actual instructional time. On very few occasions, less than 35 minutes were devoted to instruction.

Communication

The instructor was very clear when delivering lessons, instructions, and answers to questions. She used succinct language that was easy for students to understand and did not speak in an overly scientific or official manner. She appeared to speak very casually with students which allowed them to be comfortable asking questions in class. She had an excellent sense of humor which helped to keep the class engaged and interested. The teacher also appeared happy most of the time which made students receptive to her message.

Organization

The teacher was extremely organized throughout my many hours of observation. She always knew where her materials were located and how to access them, as well as how to answer student questions effectively. Her lessons were well paced as they moved quickly but held high student engagement. Her transitions were extremely smooth between units as well as parts of the lesson. She was able to craft her class periods to make the most out of the time allotted. Although she never specifically referenced and standards in the health education area, I was able to identify the hidden standards throughout lessons and activities because of my familiarity with the content area.

Student Accountability

The teacher had high expectations for her students, although she was receptive to different needs of students. She would give quizzes and tests that very clearly aligned to any guided notes or activities done in class, as well as offer extra credit opportunities. She expected the students to pay attention and often encouraged them to participate by asking questions. However, she did not tolerate inappropriate behavior of any sort. The teacher also was efficient when giving feedback, such as commenting on papers that students have turned in as well as grading tests and assignments in a timely manner. She would accept late work with few exceptions, however, she would deduct points based on how late the assignment was. She actively encouraged students to talk to her if they had any sort of issues or needed accommodations.

Technology

As previously described, Powerpoints, laptops, and the Smart Board were he most common pieces of technology used. Occasionally, some technology would be used to measure body systems such as heart rate and body mass index, but these occasions were few and far between. Technology was used heavily but efficiently in the classroom in order to cut down on paperwork and make the material accessible to all. Students were receptive to the technology and often asked that more materials be transferred to a digital form.

Professionalism

Throughout my hours of observation, I noticed a trend throughout the entire school. Most of this project has been devoted to one specific teacher in one specific class, however, I would like to address that the levels and types of professionalism that I observed were consistent throughout all teachers that I observed. Years ago when I was in high school, it appeared to be a very formal environment for teachers. At Normal West the teachers appeared to be extremely casual from the way they dressed to the way the interacted with students. However, I noticed that casual does not necessarily imply unprofessional.

Dress Code

Although all of the teachers that I observed had a fairly casual dress code, it was especially apparent in the Health class that I observed. The teacher often wore gym clothes simply because she would also teach Physical Education classes. On days that did not have physical activity for the teachers (such as test days), she often wore jeans and a nice shirt. I very rarely observed any teachers or staff members dressed in anything nicer than jeans. Despite the dress code being fairly casual, students still appeared to have the utmost respect for the staff and teachers. Students did not appear to treat the teachers any differently or interact with them any differently because of their wardrobe choices. If anything, it made the teachers seem more relatable which made the students more comfortable in the classroom.

Verbal Language

Verbal language throughout the classes was fairly casual. Teachers were not afraid to joke with the students or show their sense of humor as long as nothing could be construed as offensive. This allowed students to be comfortable around their teachers which led to a more effective learning environment. Slang terms were used fairly often in specific classes because of the nature of a Health class. Many students did not know the scientific terms for various parts of the anatomy and reproductive system, therefore slang had to be used in order for the students to understand the material. The teacher's grammar and definitions were excellent and extremely clear, leaving little room for miscommunications. There was little to no bias in verbal speech unless talking about some less than scientific studies, which seemed appropriate in context. Overall, the teacher had a pleasant tone of voice and appeared and sounded happy to be teaching.

Non-verbal Language

Teachers appeared happy and pleasant most, if not all, of the time. However, in the Health class, some students would ask ignorant or inappropriate questions on purpose and it could become difficult for the teacher to hide her look of disappointment. If the student truly did not understand she was happy to clarify, however, it was extremely apparent when students would try to annoy others. in these cases it was not always easy for her to hide what she was thinking. Additionally, she moved about the room fairly often to ensure that all students could hear and see her. She held good eye contact through every class which allowed students to remain engaged throughout the lesson.

Organization

The teacher in the Health class that I observed was highly organized, however, not so organized that the students were afraid to make mistakes. Organization does not inherently imply strictness. She always had her materials ready to go, would start class on time, and would have a clear and concise lesson prepared. This allowed maximum time for educational instruction during the class period. She would explain assignments clearly, but would also leave time for any clarification questions.

Respect for Students

Overall, the teacher had the utmost respect for students which encouraged the students to have the utmost respect for her. She did not use any discriminatory language unless she was explaining something pertinent to the lesson. She also made sure that students were not ignored in the class by talking to shy students individually after class to make sure they did not have any questions. Generally, she made sure she could spend the most time possible which each student who sought her attention as well as making time for those who may not have necessarily asked for it. She had an excellent rapport with her students which allowed everyone to feel comfortable in the classroom. She usually arrived in the class early to ensure that there was time for students to ask questions both before and after class. Informal time with students was fairly rare, but usually it was filled with pleasant conversations about school activities or other classes. Little time was spent with students outside of class because of the time during the school day in which the class took place.

Expertise

The teacher had excellent professional working knowledge of the content area and was able to clearly convey that knowledge to her students. Her method (or pedagogy) was professional and efficient because the content of each lesson is so important for the students to learn. She was able to organize her class in a way that was most conducive for learning and allowed the optimal time for content instruction. The teacher rarely experienced questions that she could not answer, indicating that her knowledge of the content area was excellent. Many of the subjects she talked about were pulled directly from the same content area classes I am taking this semester.

Autonomy

The instructor was overall very predictable. She usually started and ended the class hour in the same fashion, but would use different teaching methods during the actual lessons. It was good because the students knew what to expect, but it would probably keep the students slightly more engaged if she tried to mix up her style a bit more. However, her repetitious teaching style contributed to her excellent classroom management. Although students were often loud and talkative, they were usually talking about the lesson and asking questions, which demonstrated that they were paying attention.

Political/Religious Preference

Although the instructor informed me at a later time that she holds Christian values, those values were not apparent in her teaching. She did not appear to hold any sort of religious bias unless a student specifically asked for her opinion and it was appropriate to respond.

Overall Attitude

Generally, the teacher appeared happy with her job. She was excited to teach class every day and, although the students tested her, she never faltered her pleasant attitude. She would point out fairly often that the school was very good about offering multiple services (such as guidance counseling) and was honest when appropriate about the state of politics regarding the subject area.

Understanding Learners

Attention Given to Students

As much individual attention was given to students as possible. In an ideal world, each student would have one on one time with the teacher, however, time does not always allow that to be a possibility. The teacher did not discriminate how much attention students received based on gender, ethnicity, language, gender, SES, or sexual orientation. However, slightly more attention was given to students with exceptionalities such as learning disabilities to ensure they would not fall behind in class.

Responsiveness to Student Needs

The teacher made every effort possible to attend to every student's needs. She made time to talk with any student who needed her help and would do her best to work with that student to find a solution to the problem. However, she would generally not make grade/work exceptions, give away free points, or allow students to cheat. Her first priority was making sure that each student was able to effectively learn. She handled all other needs on an individual basis as needed.

Responsiveness to Learning Styles

The instructor was extremely good at incorporating different learning styles into her classroom environment. She used a variety of media to teach lessons including Powerpoints, videos, and analysis of charts and graphs to convey a message. She would communicate verbally, nonverbally, through emails, and other through other forms of communication such as guided notes and posts on the class website. Most notable, she would design quizzes that would allow students to answer questions based on their learning styles. For example, each quiz had three major parts. Inside each of the major parts were three questions of different types (such as fill in the blank, multiple choice, etc.). Students only had to answer one question in each section. This allowed students to be tested on what they know rather than how well they can take a quiz. The teacher was also very receptive to when a particular way of communicating or teaching was not working, and she was quick to find something else that did work. Depending on the assignment, she would allow students to work with partners or individually based on how the students perceived themselves, which indicates that she was happy to allow independent learners to learn individually and visa versa. There were few group activities due to the large size of the class and the small classroom.

Engagement of Multiple Intelligences

As previously stated, the instructor did her best to allow every student to learn in the way he/she saw fit. This included assigning projects that involved writing papers, creating presentation with visual images, presenting verbal lessons, demonstrations and physical activities, and showing data through graphs and charts. Many of the lessons included multiple intelligences in the activities.

Management of the Physical Environment

Unfortunately, the number of students was large and the classroom was very small which created some difficulties for the management of the classroom environment. However, the teacher was fairly familiar with that experience and was able to make due with what she had.

Teacher and Student Needs

Students at this particular high school are allowed to carry backpacks with them to class which made the need for storage relatively unimportant. The only storage needed in the classroom was a cabinet for physical textbooks that were to be shared by all of the classes. Students had access to their textbook online as well so this was not necessarily a priority. Desks were arranged in rows because the correct amount of desks would not fit n the room in any other formation. There were not specialty areas in this classroom. Lighting in the room was more than adequate and perhaps even a little too bright due to the large window at the side of the classroom. Distractions from outside the room were few and far between and often came from students walking through the hallway.

Display Areas

Although there were no actual bulletin boards in the room, that does not imply that the room was undecorated. Informational posters lined the walls almost to the point where it was distracting. However, every poster had valuable information, so it appeared to be there for a reason. Due to student privacy laws and the digital nature of the class, no student work was displayed in the classroom. Near the door and the window multiple packets outlining emergency procedures could be found. These packets were also brightly colored which made them easy to locate.

Classroom Routine Procedures

For the class in which I observed the most, the bell would ring at 1:48 p.m. to signal the start of class. The bell would ring as 2:37 p.m. to signal the end of class. The teacher would take attendance when there was time (which was rarely, but she would usually send it in by the end of the day) and tardiness was not usually called out in front of the class. If it became an issue she would talk to the student after class about the issue. Interruptions (such as pass delivery) were handled quietly without drawing attention to the issue. Most assignments were either collected online or handed to the front row of the classroom, and all grades were distributed online.

Individual Routine Procedures

For the most part, individuals did not use equipment in the classroom unless it was their own (such as their own laptop). That cut down on any discrepancies of school owned materials. Talking occasionally became disruptive in the classroom, but the students knew that if the teacher was presenting a lesson they should save all thoughts and comments until they were called on by the teacher. Entering class discussions was done in a generally respectful way by raising a hand to be called upon. This allowed every student to have a say in a subject matter which contributed to students' learning of multiple perspectives regarding a subject. Students needed to ask permission to go to the restroom or leave the room for any reason, but more often than not, the teacher would allow them to leave.

Teacher Responsiveness to Students

Overall, the teacher was extremely with it when it came to her students. She would always listen to what they had to say and would do her best to answer any and all questions. She used positive reinforcement as much as possible by encouraging students to try again and to ask more questions. She would make lessons relatable and was very aware of everything her students were doing at all times, sometimes using misbehaviors as examples in class without specifically calling the student out. She handled all misbehaviors appropriately without embarrassing students. Eventually many of the misbehaviors became exhausted and ceased altogether. By encouraging the students to ask as many questions as possible and to participate in class discussions, students were always encouraged to participate and often did. Very rarely would the teacher loose the attention of the students.

Diversity and Demographics

Percentage of Ethnic Diversity (in the School)

77% Caucasian, 12% African American, 4% Latino/Latina, 1% Asian, and 6% Other.

Teacher Diversity

The teacher I observed the most was a Caucasian female.

Classroom Type

I observed in a traditional classroom setting.

Number of Students at Competency Levels

In the particular class I observed the most, all of the students appeared to be at an independent competency level.

Number of Minutes of Instruction

The entire class period was 53 minutes long. Of those 53 minutes, about 30 minutes were lecture, ten minutes were individual or group work (depending on the day), 0 minutes on the computer (unless it was a test day or something was to be turned in online), 0 minutes were spent on homework, five minutes were spent re-teaching, and eight minutes were spent on discussion. These time parameters were most common, but it did occasionally fluctuate depending on the nature of the lesson.

Demographics

1,553 students currently attend Normal West Community High School. All students are from Normal, Illinois. Normal West is a traditional public school that takes students from a number of feeder schools including Parkside Junior High, Evans Junior High, Chiddix Junior High, and Kingsley Junior High.

Diversity

Because Normal West is a diverse institution, it is to be expected that there are cultural differences among students. However, I did not observe many cultural differenced within the classrooms I observed the most because of the heavy instruction and time devoted to the lesson. Occasionally a student would ask about how a particular subject applied to his or her culture, but that was the extent that I observed. Teachers would explain to the best of their knowledge. The instructor of the Health class was excellent at making sure that no one felt discriminated against. Her actions, lessons, knowledge, and responsiveness included all students and never made anyone feel uncomfortable to my knowledge. It is also important to remember that culture is not talked about extensively in Health class as it might be in an English class. Most of the lessons in this class focused on science and research findings. That being said, the teacher did attempt to make reasonable accommodations for all students in order to ensure that every student had a shot for success. The teacher was also very conscious of different students and their needs, cultures, ethnicities, etc. so she made every effort possible to include everyone. She would use examples that applied to all people instead of a select few, held high expectations for everyone in class, and displayed as much cultural diversity as possible.

Final Reflection for the Main Components

Methodology and Technology

Overall, I expected to observe more of the same techniques I use on a regular basis when I teach my own classes. I was surprised to find that I was correct and that many of my teaching habits were shared with high school teachers, however, they were adapted for the older age group. One of the things that was most consistent with what I expected was the way teachers encourage and answer questions. I love to have question and answer sessions in my classes, so to see that at the high school level was very reassuring. Regarding my observations of this component, observing high school teachers did not really change my perceptions. I had a good understanding of how a classroom was run, and the observation experience only confirmed what my original perceptions were. Therefore, in my future classrooms I will probably employ a lot of the techniques that I not only observed but have used myself in the past. One thing that surprised me regarding methodology is the fact that my current teaching strategies were used in a class that met multiple times a week. In the past, I have designed lessons with certain strategies in mind because my classes generally met once a week. Many of the same strategies were used in this high school class that met every day, which I found extremely interesting. Due to the fact that I only visited one observation site and observed a total of four teachers, I cannot honestly talk about how methodology has changed between sites. However, I can say that much of the methodology I have used in the past was implemented at Normal West as well. Observing the strategies and methodology that was present in the classroom made me feel secure in my teaching instincts. I have been leading my own classes for eight years at this point, and have only received formal training very recently. It was extremely reassuring to know that my instincts align with what formally trained teachers do in their classrooms as well.

Professionalism

Going into to my observation hours, I expected the professional environment to be very similar to that of my own high school experience. I was surprised to find that this school was far more casual, but I was happy to realize that casual does not imply unprofessional. I found that it is acceptable to be casual with students as long as they do not lose respect for you and your colleagues. I will probably have a slightly more formal rapport as a teacher, but I am also more than happy to let my sense of humor shine through as well. Another part of this component that surprised me is the school's level of professionalism. When I was in high school, students were not allowed to roam the halls for any reason. At Normal West, it became apparent that students have much more freedom than I ever had. As previously stated, I really only observed in one setting, but I can compare this site to my previous teaching experience. This school's perception of professionalism strongly resembled that of my Religious Education classes. While teaching in that setting, I had no firm dress code or professional procedural codes. However, while teaching after school enrichment classes, I had to appear extremely professional and dress very formally. However, in all settings, my rapport with students has always been fairly causal. I find that it is better to be casual with students because they tend to feel more comfortable in the learning environment. Observing the different styles of professionalism have helped me to understand that being casual does not mean that you are unprofessional. This will help me as a future teacher because now I can see that casual approaches to professionalism are perfectly acceptable.

Understanding Learners

When it comes to understanding learners, I have a lot of experience. At this point i have taught over 100 students who all learn in different ways and come from different backgrounds. Many of them are also different ages. Therefore, I expected to observe a lot of what I had figured out in the past. I had expected teachers to attempt to accommodate for as many students as possible; however, I was surprised at how seriously they took they took that task. I did not observe one student who was not accounted for in some way. Observing this gave me a lot more hope for what I will be able to accomplish as a teacher. Previously, I thought that it would be almost impossible to account for all of the different learners' needs due to time and volume of students, but now I truly believe that it can be done. I was surprised that students were able to take quizzes that equated to their learning styles. As previously explained, having quizzes with multiple sections of different types of questions seems incredibly helpful to students. The component of understanding learners is very similar to what I have done and observed in the past. In my future classrooms I will continue to do the best I can to make sure that each student is able to learn in an effective and thought provoking way. One of the most important things I took away from this observation is realizing that I am on the right track. I am not a perfect teacher yet, but seeing a lot of what I have already been implementing in my classrooms in other classrooms gives me the confidence to move forward.

Management of the Physical Environment

I had very simple expectations of the physical classroom environment. I expected there to be a lot of students in a small space, but I was not prepared for the amount of posters displayed on the wall. Everything was well organized. This is the one area that I do not have much experience with myself because I usually use other teacher's classrooms to teach my classes. I did not have any preconceived perceptions about the physical classroom environment, however, I was surprised by the number of students in a classroom that small. Unfortunately, that appears to be more of an administrative problem than something I would be able to correct myself. Every classroom I teach in is different, but this one seemed to have the most educational posters of any room I had ever been in previously. I really liked that idea, and will probably add many of my own posters to my future classrooms because I feel they are helpful for students who may need a quick dose of information. I feel observing in this particular environment will help me become a better teacher because I will be able to explain to the administrative services why I need the correct room size for the number of students that are assigned to my class.

Diversity and Demographics

Going into this experience, I expected the population of this school to be much more diverse than my own high school experience. I went to a school that had predominately Caucasian students and very few minorities. This experience was definitely different and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was educational and I was able to work with students who came from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. This experience did not necessarily change my perceptions of this component, because I had few perceptions from the start. However, I have observed a highly culturally responsive classroom and can model that in my future classes. I was particularly surprised at the type of diversity within the school. I was expecting many many different races and cultures, but the majority of students I worked with were either African American or Caucasian. I have always tried to have a culturally responsive classroom, but I have not had much experience with diversity in my classrooms. Many of my classrooms have consisted of cultures specific to each school because of the geographic location and the demographic within the region. This was the first experience I have had with multiple cultures in one place, but now I have a firm example of what cultural responsiveness looks like. The main takeaway from this experience for me is the celebration of all the different types of people within the classroom. The more you can learn about others the easier it will be to navigate life, and that is the approach I want to take in the classroom.

Overall, I am extremely grateful to have had this experience. I learned so much about technique and strategies in different components of the classroom that will be incredibly valuable to me in the future. I have also realized that I am on the right track when I teach my current classes, and that my students' responses are genuine. It gives me the confidence to move forward with this career choice.

Created By
Alex Simko
Appreciate

Credits:

Created with images by Ross Griff - "Storm over Normal" • DariuszSankowski - "phone screen technology" • umezy12 - "Classroom" • Giovanni Hashimoto - "Syllabi promotes dishonesty" • ImagineCup - "Imagine Cup 2012 - Day 4 Finalist Presentations" • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - "Students Visit Goddard" • Lyn Lomasi - "Homeschool Materials on Shelf" • mathewingram - "Zoe-report-card" • AlexKingCreative - "mouse apple magic mouse" • See-ming Lee 李思明 SML - "“Professionalism is qualitative, not quantitative.” / SML.20121209.PHIL" • successattire - "Business Casual Attire" • jerrykimbrell10 - "smiling teacher female" • Alexas_Fotos - "baby-sitter children educator nanny" • Lyn Lomasi - "Classroom Materials" • NWABR - "2010 Student Fellows" • NWABR - "2011 Youth Ethics Summit" • monicore - "notebook pen pencil" • Sean MacEntee - "rosary beads" • geralt - "comic fig child" • andros1234 - "class discussion girls" • 84264 - "girl wall mural" • geralt - "leave board hand" • University of the Fraser Valley - "India 2-334" • johnyksslr - "chairs sit architecture" • DFAT photo library - "Students at Shree Dharmasthali Lower Secondary School, Pokhara, Nepal." • Enokson - "Whooo's Reading a Good Book?" • Peggy_Marco - "white male 3d model isolated" • ambermb - "school backpack childhood" • niyam bhushan - "IMG_0975" • marc falardeau - "DIVERSITY" • themtube2 - "IMG_8598" • cambodia4kidsorg - "facebook demographics" • istolethetv - "diversity" • Jonas B - "Reflection" • regan76 - "Teaching...(#1964)"

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