The teachers I observed were Beau Shepard the drafting and manufacturing teacher, as well as Matt Proehl who was the woods teacher.
When first arriving I was shocked at how big Pekin High School was. The Technology/Trades program had its own wing that is about as big as a elementary school.
Methodology and Technology
Like most school that I am use to the presentation of the content was standard for the drafting classes I observed.
The class began with announcements, followed by a recap of what happened in the last class. This is where Mr. Shepard would also go over what the students should have had done and what they needed to get done that day.
Mr. Shepard for his drafting class had the students in what can best be described as pods. Groups of 6 each with their own computer. This allowed the student to help each other out if needed. If the students couldn't help each other he was walking around the class answering the tough questions. This is when I was able to get in and help out by answering some of the questions.
The part that surprised me the most was the fact that it was more of here is a picture of the piece that was needed to be modeled and just letting the students go. Because of this I noticed two students that just sat on their phones listening to music and playing games.
This shocked me due to the fact that Mr. Shepard just let them do it.
In the Manufacturing lab however Mr. Shepard was more contagion of what each student was doing. Despite the fact that they were all spread out working in their groups on different projects. When I asked him why he wasn't as hard on the kids in the drafting class he explained that due to the fact the kid in the manufacturing class are around dangerous machines he was more worried about keeping them on task, where in the drafting class if a student isn't paying attention they wont lose a finger.
In contrast Mr. Proehl would stand in the middle of the wood shop and scan the room. He separated the students into two groups. The first group was the students that he trusted to work on the classes main project, a full size wall that they built from scratch. The second group was the students that tended to cause trouble, this group was given simple tasks in an effort to just keep them busy and out of trouble.
The style that I would want to emulate is the way Mr. Shepard operated. The fact that he was moving around the classroom interacting with the students but also allowing them to work with each other. The reason I prefer this method is because of the fact that when you are working somewhere your going to have to work with others. This style of class teaches students to rely on each other and helps them with their team working ability.
The two teacher I observed had very different levels of professionalism.
Both wore button down shirts, however where Mr. Shepard wore khaki work pants, Mr.Proehl wore blue jeans. On the surface it doesn't seem like that would make that big of a difference it just seemed, to me, to not be the best attire.
Both used normal "slang" that students use like dude, and homeboy. This was done when everything was going well and they weren't having to discipline a student.
When it came down to discipline Mr. Shepard would bring the student over to the side of the classroom away from other students and speak in a low tone asking them what was going on. If the student would start to look down or way from him he would shift around as to get their attention back on him. This worked well because it would keep the students talking with him and allowed him to go over what the problem was and how they could fix it together.
Mr. Proehl on the other hand would stay in is position in the middle of the wood shop and proceed to yell across the room. I was especially shocked when he called a student an idiot and the he needs to stop screwing around.
Due to the way that Pekin operates a good portion of the students in the trade programs are the ones that are considered high risk. Because of this there are times that they have students acting out in class or in the hallways. This means that as a teacher your going to have to intervene. I would think the preferred way would be how Mr. Shepard handled it bring the student off to the side and speaking in a low tone as to not make a spectacle of it. As I saw two different methods it brought me back to when I was in junior high and had teachers put me down in front of other students and how bad it made me feel. It's shocking to me that administrators allow that to happen still.
Both classes had a similar student make up. Very few girls mostly boys. The most interesting part is the fact that the students ranged from freshman to seniors. Again there were a larger amount of high risk kids then I was expecting. Mr. Steger, the department head, explained to me that students that were considered high risk by counselors were encouraged to take the trade classes so they would be able to graduate and find jobs.
Though there is not a large population of non-whites at Pekin there is a large number of student with debilitates as well as low SES. Because of this I was told that most of the kid did not have good home lives. That is why Mr. Shepard was more lenient when they act up in class. He said that there was no point in causing a scene for the kids when they normal have to deal with it at home. He wants to make a place where they want to be.
I have always looked at Tech classes as ones that students chose to be in not that they were put into them. Having seen this it made me realize that I will have to work to keep them interested in the class well making it a place that they could come to if they are having issues either at home or in school.
Most of the projects in classes I observed were hands on type. From creating models on the computer, to building a wall, to taking a piece of metal and turning it on a lathe to make a gavel. Each one had the student having to take a sheet with dimensions on it and the recreating it on there own. The one thing that seemed to be a constant was the fact that when they were done the gave off a sense of pride in what they did. That right there can make a large difference in their lives.
The layout of the of the drafting classroom was different to what I am use to. There are no desks. The students when working on computers sit in pods of six. When they are doing hand drafting then they have drafting tables that circle around the classroom. If they are doing a group discussions or a presentation then they sit around a large work table.
Mr. Shepard's desk is placed up against the back wall in the middle. This way he is able to see all the students when they are working at their different stations.
The best part of the classroom was the student projects that lined the shelves around the classroom. This acted as a form of motivation for the students to excel past other students. It gave them a goal to work towards.
For Mr. Shepard's landscaping class they do a lot of work outside. They are currently working on a sand box for the childcare center. Due to the fact that they are outside most of the time, weather permitting, they don't have a set seating arrangement. They do meet in the drafting classroom at the start of the period before going out to the work site. This is similar to his manufacturing class that meets in his main room and then go straight into the workshop.
Mr. Shepard is very lax on students talking with each other during class as long as they are staying on task. He also allows them to listen to music on their phones. The reason he does that it because it helps them concentrate. He has noticed that some of the students seem to struggle more when not allowed to listen to music. This is similar to my self. I have an easier time concentrating and staying on task when I'm listening to music (I currently have Pandora open).
For the woods class it is very similar. They have a small classroom that the initially meet in but then go right into the workshop.
For both classrooms the have the bell schedule next to the door. Then above the door they have what they are suppose to do in case of a tornado, fire, as well as other emergencies. The only rules I noticed on the walls for both classes was a sign that said "Safety is #1". This is because the woods, manufacturing, and landscaping classes all use power tools and need to keep safety at the forefront of their minds.
Diversity and Demographics
The Student diversity he was only about 8% non-white. However the percent of low income students has been between 43% and 50% the past few years, and the percent that qualify for special education service is at 14%. This is based on a student population of about 2,030 students. Though in the classes I saw there were only about 10 female students. Though watching the hallways as student went to their next class it seemed like it was more even.
They have students that can live as far away as 20 miles. Which coming from the suburbs of Chicago surprised me. Whenever I think about the school layouts for Schaumburg we seemed to have multiple high schools within 10 miles of each other so most students didn't have to travel that far.
The teacher demographics show that about 61% are female. They also have a ratio of about 17:1 which is close to the state average which is 19:1.
For the classes I observed most of the time in class was spent working in groups, be it in the workshops or just on the computers. There was also very little time spent doing lectures. Most of the instruction came from students having questions and then doing a quick group example.
Overall this experience has opened my eyes. There is a drastic difference in tech ed programs in the suburbs compared to rural towns. In the suburbs you are expected to go to college so the focus more on prepping you for it. In rural towns there is more of a focus on trade skills. This way if a student can't get into a college they will still have the skill to get a job somewhere that can sustain them.