Methodology and Technology
SMART Boards (taken off adobe)
I learned about a lot of different methodologies and technology through my clinical experience at Normal Community West High School, but for the most part, there was a lot that was not expected.
Going in as a current college student, my brain was mostly wired to think of only lectures and notes as a method of education. I thought these were the main elements of learning (or at least they were for the most part when I was in high school), however, Normal Community West teachers incorporated many elements of a progressive way of teaching that I was very impressed by.
To begin, I saw about 3 hours of classes that had basically what I expected; the full class period of the children quiet and the teacher being the only one talking to give a lecture on the provided material. The classes that provided a basic structured lecture was math, history, and health. They all used different forms of technology for their lectures. Some used smart boards, some used powerpoint, while others used their white boards to point out specific themes.
I saw that through this that although lectures can be effective and a little more organized, they were not the only efficient ways of teaching. Other classes used class discussion, guest speakers, individual student presentations, group student presentations, online forums, reading assignments, required essays, book reports, use of pretests, open textbook study, test studying with teacher guidance, standardized exams, images, clips, full movies, and use of personal technology.
Examples of how the teachers used all of these different types of methods and technology:
class discussion: teachers allowed time in certain subjects to let the students come up with their own ideas to class.
guest speakers: Like for health class, the teacher had a police officer come in to talk about the consequences of sending inappropriate pictures and also another instructor to talk about the consequences of cyber bulling. Technology was used such as PowerPoints and clips to show the different consequences.
individual student presentations: Students were required to present their own material on different subjects. Students could present with different technology, a lot used the SMART Board.
group student presentations: students presented in groups of 4-5, each having their own part. Again, a lot used the SMART Board for this and made slideshows.
reading assignments: students were not only required to read outside of school but in one of the English classes I observed, everyday the students came in and read for the first 10 minutes of class. The only technology that was used through this was the timer the teacher put on the SMART Board so that everyone knew how much time they had left.
required essays: some classes the students worked on essays either about the book they were reading or the subject they were on (such as writing about a certain time not a specific book). Technology through this was laptops that the children had to write theirs on.
book reports: this was on the English book the students were currently reading. Technology used was that they had to upload some of their own summaries through an online portal.
use of pretests: some teachers gave out pretests for the students to do individually as if they were taking it for real. Afterwards the teacher went over the answers and let the students take them home to study.
open note and textbook study: some teachers dedicated the period to allowing students to study by themselves or in groups with their notes or books.
test studying with teacher guidance: some teachers allowed the whole hour for explanation of test and possible test questions.
standardized exams: teachers incorporated this with using multiple choice, short answer, and fill in the blank questions. All the classes I saw used paper only for this and no technology.
images: a lot of images were incorporated on posters and slideshows.
clips: small clips were used sporadically to help students learn different concepts. YouTube was used a lot in this.
full movies or episodes: a couple teachers played full videos and episodes of different shows to documentaries. One health teacher showed a documentary about drug use, an economics teacher showed a documentary on minimum wage, a psych teacher showed the film breakfast club to represent the different psychology of parents and children, and a history teacher showed a film about women's rights.
use of personal technology: I noticed phones weren't allowed to be in use. Laptops were completely allowed and required for most. Some brought their own laptops from home while others had to rent from the school. Graphing calculators were allowed in math but only for specific units.
All of these approaches intertwined with different classes. I think it just depended on the teachers opinion and what seemed the most effective at the time for what they were learning. Like, what was really going to help this information stick? What applied the most? If that happened to be a film that had a lot of similarities to a course, then it was a film. If it was a group project that would help interactive learning, then it was a group project, and so on.
In my opinion, my favorite specific method was relating certain aspects of psychology to the film Breakfast Club. I think that learning certain concepts can be very difficult and daunting if you do not have real life experiences or examples to connect them to. This movie the teacher picked had such amazing examples that pertained to the course and it was a film that many enjoyed.
Observing all of these classes really showed me how important different methods and technology are in a classroom. Before observing, I think I was a little more close minded with different ways of teaching, but now I see how effective they all can be. In my future classroom I hope to not only incorporate a few, but all of these methods throughout my teaching career. Depending on the lesson, I would like to become as creative with my methods as possible and try to stray away from the traditional form of teaching. I believe this is important to come into a more progressive way of teaching because it adds different skills through social interactions, creativity, and collaboration that just isn't seen as much in traditional teaching when it had mostly a teacher and lecture focus.
I think the one thing that surprised me the most through my observing experience was the absolute comfort and respect that all the students had to all of these different methods and technology. Especially with technology, students being allowed their own laptops I thought that would distract them but it did not at all. They all stayed on task and did what they were instructed.
With methodology and technology, the one thing I will take away from this experience is creativity. Getting to see the teachers having a passion and adding their own creativity into each subject was amazing to see and reminded me why I cannot wait to become a teacher myself. Knowing how to use different tools to make what I am teaching interesting and something students can better connect on I think is what will truly make me not only a "good" educator, but a unique one.
Professionalism is a very important component to have in a classroom. I was very pleased to see every teacher I observed have the absolute best resource of this. Going into this experience I expected nothing less, I know to be a teacher that it is such an important quality because it is setting the tone for students with what they will need to learn themselves. The level of professionalism was just what I thought it would be, if not higher.
The teachers I observed showed the highest level of professionalism by being on time, being prepared, taking charge of the classroom, being passionate about their coursework and respecting their students.
I saw this through punctuality and always being ready to greet the students as they walk in and make sure they are ready to start the lesson. I saw it through the smoothness in transitions because the teachers were always prepared for the next lesson. I saw it by seeing how good of control the teachers had on calming down the kids immediately when they got a little chatty. I saw it in the level of passion they had for every subject they taught and how they would express through lessons how beneficial they think it is to know and how fun it could be. Finally, I saw this level of professionalism in the way they respected and talked to their students as if they were on the same level.
In my opinion, I think the most important approach to professionalism is being respectful toward your students. I believe respect is such an important component to have in a classroom because when respect is given equally, work just runs a lot more smoothly. I remember being the most surprised by one English teacher. Each kid walked in and he just showed genuine interest in all of their lives. One boy walked in and he asked how his basketball game went the other day. Another student walked in and he asked how their vacation was. Just to remember all of these little things about a student and show them that they are all seen as friends not only students, I think is the most genuine type of respect one can have because it is showing that you see them all as adults.
I would like to incorporate this level of respect into my classroom one day. I want to get to know the kids I want them to know that they can go to me even if its about questions that they are scared to ask. Because a long with respect that also leads to an easier job controlling the classroom. I want to incorporate a friendly professional atmosphere where students listen not because they are afraid of me, but because they just respect me too much not to listen. I believe that from this, I could be a teacher that students will always remember and feel like they connected the most with. There are sometimes very few teachers that students feel like they can with, and I would like to change that.
Understanding a person who is learning is a hard, but important task. There will be questions, there will be absences, and there will be different levels that each student is on.
Going into this, I did expect there to be a small barrier with what students are thinking and what a teacher is and I thought I would see a little more conflict in a teacher/student understanding about some things, but I was pretty shocked.
It seemed as though every teacher was so patient with questions and so understanding with a certain student not being in class and letting them make up a lesson or test. The teachers all were very patient with the different levels each student was on. You could tell that it was a difficult task some class days for some students understanding a certain concept and others not being able to, but every teacher I observed showed an incredible amount of patience with letting them feel comfortable with whatever speed they needed to go on or whatever questions they needed to ask.
My most surprising occurrence I observed of a teacher really understanding a student was one particular math teacher. I remember it was a test day, and all the kids walked up to get their tests. One girl walked up to get hers and the teacher pulled her to the side and said, "You know you don't have to take this right? I know you weren't here yesterday for our lesson." and she kept telling him that it was okay and that she would take it. After class the teacher explained to me that the reason he was so understanding of her not taking the exam that day was because he knew she had gone through a bad breakup at school the day before and went home crying. He wanted her to at least be able to have an extra day to get caught up on the lesson she learned and then have a chance. I remember just thinking wow, that is one understanding teacher. I think that is so important to understand is that students go through a lot sometimes and once in a while to just have a teacher cut them a break, could mean the world to them. We all need that sometimes, just someone understanding that life gets hard but that they still want to see you succeed.
I saw a lot of this in different classes but with different forms. One history teach I observed let her students retake certain portions of the test that they did the worse on and I thought that was so understanding of her. Being able to understand that some students just aren't going to excel in different portions but giving them a second chance is incredible. I think that this little method she used was the best in my opinion because you know what? All that matters is that in the end the student is learning from the information. If you just fail them on a test, they're just going to throw it out and not learn anything about what they should have from the test. However, if you give them a second chance, thats giving them another opportunity to learn what they need to. When I am a teacher I would really like to be able to work patiently with my students even when they do not do as well as I want. I still want them to learn from it, not just consider themselves a failure from it. I would definitely incorporate this into my classroom.
One impression I can take away from all the understanding teachers I have observed is really just listening and patience. You have to understand that they are listening to you in your lessons, so you have to listen to them. You have to meet them halfway because not every student is going to succeed. Some students are going to struggle and have their difficulties but you just have to try your best to understand them and lend a helping hand when they really need it. I hope that is what will truly make me a memorable teacher one day.
management of physical environment
Management for physical environment isn't always a component many students think about but it is a pretty important one. Going into this I expected all the desks to be set up how they are in college. To mostly be in rows, not connected to one another and just facing the front. I also expected it to be a little more plain with not really any decorations or anything. To be honest, I thought all the decorations and group desks were more for elementary and middle school teachers. I thought when it came to high school, teachers had to transfer to so many different rooms and did not really get their own room so not much personality would be put into each one.
I was very wrong. Every single teacher I observed had their own classroom and had their own decorations with different seat arrangements. Some teachers had the simple rows of desks I expected, but others had the desks set up in groups of 4-5. Every teacher had all their own decorations and by that I mean, encouraging posters, pictures of their family and favorite things, and other student's successful projects up around the room.
Being able to personalize your personal space and put the desks in groups I think is very important and something I want to take away from my experience. First of all, it is so important to put up inspirational posters to motivate the students. They can also be motivated by showing other students previous work in the classroom. Having a students project on display because they did so well will show a level of praise that I am sure other students will hope to strive for. The personality of the classroom and adding a part of yourself to it with pictures and your favorite things will also show the students a glimpse into your life which I think they will respect you for. One of the most surprising examples I saw of this was one English teacher put up a bunch of posters of his favorite bands and also a picture of him and his daughter, with a beautiful hand written letter from her on why he's a great dad for fathers day. Showing the students that a teacher is a human being too, really shows a certain level of respect. I also believe the desks being in groups is important because I want students to be able to work in groups a lot and I don't want the classroom to always be disorganized because students are constantly moving desks around. Group collaboration is so important with a students development of social skills and I would really like to incorporate that as well in my future classroom and for it to already be organized when they need to.
All of this is reflected through your use of physical management, so don't be afraid of those words and don't be afraid to get creative with it!
Diversity and demographics
Diversity and demographics is a hard subject to discuss because there are just so many different forms of it and different views. Being a couple hours from the city of Chicago, I was not expecting to see as much diversity that I may have closer to a more cultured center. I was expecting it to be mostly white. I also expected some problems with low income families and also not a high population.
Some Demographics that were reported for Normal Community West High School for grades 9-12 were:
Low income students: 29%
Students with disabilities: 16%
Racial/Ethnic diversity: White= 72.2% Black= 13.7% Hispanic= 6.3 Asian= 0.9% American Indian= 0.2% Two or more races= 6.5% Pacific Islander= 0.2%
Demographics were taken from: https://illinoisreportcard.com/school.aspx?source=studentcharacteristics&Schoolid=170640050260002
Seeing the demographics and observing in person I realize that I was right about it being a mostly white school. About 1/3 of students came from low income families which was expected but I was very sad to learn that 1% is homeless. However, the school did have more students than I expected for being in a rural setting.
Diversity can be a hard concept for some teachers. However I was so pleased with the level of equality each student got from teachers. I do not think I ever saw one teacher treat another student differently because of different diversities. In fact, I was very impressed by a teacher who told me a very interesting trick to make sure you never accidentally judge a particular student while grading papers. He has the kids write their names on the back of the tests or papers so when he goes through and grades it, he never accidentally sees their names or judges while grading. That is certainly a small example I will take away for my class. I want every student to know they are being graded with absolute fairness.
Diversity can be tricky but I never want it to reflect upon my lessons or how I look at a student. The only thing I could ask for with diversity is that my classroom could be their safe zone if they struggle with it outside of my classroom.
Thank you For reading!
I hope that through all my observations and everything I have learned from, will help you too!