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Abby field notes 4

asweeney's picture

What? When Teacher S is absent, the entire class goes into Teacher A’s classroom. 50 kids and one lead teacher with a few aids (volunteer grandparents). This is sure to be a challenging situation. The chosen method of teaching in this situation is using the smart board to play various YouTube videos of educational merit. More specifically, they watch President Obama’s speech and a video about Veteran’s Day (with country-style patriotic music and pictures of soldiers dying and children crying). Because there are so many kids in the classroom, some of them are sitting quite far away from the screen on which these videos are playing, and therefore have difficulty seeing and paying attention.


When the teacher tries to access a certain video, she is unable to do so because of a block with the school’s internet server. She then has to spend almost 25 minutes trying to get the video and filling out various online forms. The music teacher comes in to distract the 50 kids with impromptu music while they wait.


So What? As an observer, it was challenging for me to remember the reality that this was not a typical day for any of these kindergarteners or the teacher and ignore the fact that the kids spent almost 2 straight hours sitting (with a few stretch breaks) watching educational TV. Was this the best use of technology? Shouldn’t schools develop some sort of “emergency plan” for when teachers are absent so that large chunks of teaching time are not taken up? I know that learning can take place in many different formats, but I was even wondering during my visit if the kids might learn more from just playing outside with each other and using their imaginations than watching Obama’s speech sitting on a carpet while being occasionally “shhhhed” by grandmothers.


While the teacher was having difficulty uploading the video, I was wondering how this scenario might have differed had the music teacher not popped his head into the classroom door and seen that Teacher A could use some help. Technology was intended to be a great way to occupy 50 kids at one time, but her technical difficulties causes me (and her I think ) to ask many questions about the constraints of technology. Also, the issue of a school deciding what is and what is not appropriate for teachers to show their students from the internet highlights inherent issues of authority and trust that occur in our school systems.


Also, my comment on the patriotic video:

Reminds me of how schools are really a place where we instill the dominant ideologies of our communities into kids. But is this beneficial? How does our interest in instilling patriotism and national pride in our students later conflict with our attempt to encourage critical thinking? Do our kids know how to be critical of their own country? For example, could this patriotic video with country music played in kindergarten affect the way a 9th grader thinks about US International polices?



Now What? I hope to learn more about why schools have set up constraints on what website their teachers can visit (does it have to do with how they spend their down time, or how they spend their students’ learning time, for example)? I would also like to learn more about when certain material (like Obama’s speech) is deemed age-appropriate for a group of students, as I felt that while his speech was not inappropriate, it might not have been the most beneficial use of learning time since much of what he said in the speech was not targeted to be understood by 5 year olds. Also, I would be interested in researching schools that are known for encouraging critical thinking and learn about their approach to patriotism in the classroom.



alesnick's picture


It is distressing indeed when precious instructional time is wasted and kids are essentially imposed upon.  It strikes me that reading a story would have been easier and more valuable. Also, 50 kids with one teacher is just too many.  There definitely should have been back-up plans in place.