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Abby field notes 7


What? I worked individually with Child F because the teacher said that he did not know how to draw his letters, which is something that the rest of the class was working on at the carpet. It took SO MUCH COAXING on my part until Child F even let go of his white board marker to begin. In the beginning, I drew a letter and then asked him to draw the same one (we were actually only working on the lower case “a”) but he would just start scribbling. Eventually, every time he drew it correctly I whisper-yelled “BAM!” which he thought was funny. It encouraged him to fill an entire white board with lower case “a” and then half of a board with lower case “b”s. During this entire session, I was basically chanting “BAM BAM BAM”


Later, when the entire class was sitting down to write stories, I tried to help this same student again. He refused to accept my help or listen to what I was saying. He squirmed excessively, got up from his seat, scribbled all over his work, and got yelled at by the teacher. Even though he had been receptive to my help about 40 minutes before this, in this setting where the entire class was working on the same thing, he seemed inclined to refuse to participate and create a mini-scene in the classroom (note: this is the same student who took off all his clothes on my first visit to the classroom).


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Abby Field notes 6

What? The volunteer grandmother interrupts the teacher and talks very informally to the students, often scolding the ones she knows but not those that she does not know well. On one of my visits, she scolds her granddaughter very loudly and rather aggressively in front of the entire class. During this same visit (# 7), she tells a different child that she knows to “shut up.” Similarily, she also reminds the teacher of which children in the class have “bad tempers” or “bad attitutes.”


So What? They dynamic between the lead teacher and the volunteer grandmother seems strange to me, as though the lead teacher resents the grandmother but the grandmother wishes very much to be heard and have authority. It is difficult for me not to judge some of the grandmother’s behaviors---like the “shut up” comment and some of the aggressive or mean things she says to other students that she knows in the class (I’m guessing they all live in the same neighborhood”) about calling their parents or keeping their temper in control-----because they just seem terribly inappropriate. Publically labeling certain kids as “bad” seems inappropriate teacher behavior, but the grandmother does this all the time. One of the class mottos is to be “a peaceful problem solver” but I don’t feel like either the teacher-grandmother or grandmother-students relationship is providing a good example of this for the students.


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Is it dangerous to label certain things are being "relevant" only for certain students?

Today during the presentations the idea that certain themes are more "relevant" to certain students came up. I'm wondering if this is a fair question to ask? While I too see the merit in quetioning whether or not we are teaching certain topics correctly (civil rights, slavery, and the black power movements were discussed in class), I don't think it is necessarily fair to argue that these topics are more relevant to certain students based on race. Perhaps it is true that a black student might glean different meaning from a lesson on US slavery than would his or her peers of different races, but I'm also sure that students of all races would take something important from the lesson. By suggesting that a lesson would be MORE relevant to this student because he or she is black, however, I think we risk re-inforcing a commonly used concept that being white means being "culturless." I'd like to aruge that EVERYTHING we teach in a classroom is equally relevant to all students----relevant to what it means to be a human, and what is means to understand common human phenomena that are still present today in the world---like hate and prejudice. Students of different races might take different forms of meaning from certain topics, but I think it might be dangerous to suggest that some topics are inherently more relevant to certain students. We wouldn't want to block students from exploring things that they find truly interesting simply because they do not belong to the group to which this topic is truly "relevant." 

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She Would Not Be Moved----How we pick "safe" heroes to teach in school

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Panem propaganda

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Abby Field Notes 5

What? When we are outside at recess, this one little girl comes up to me at least 10 times each minute and says “Teacher Abby! Watch me! I want to show you something” and then does some sort of swinging motion on the monkey bards for me to watch. I come over and watch every time, but the action itself rarely changes. Eventually, I try to go to a different area of the playground, but she follows me insisting that I watch her “do this” and “do that.” Every time, I feel the need to say “Good job!”

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Abby field notes 4

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.


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Field Notes 2--Abby

What?  No technology used When spelling new words, the teacher writes on the board: “saw to frnds” instead of “saw too friends.” I assume this is a strategy for helping kids learn to spell phonetically. The students learn their letters by tracing them on whiteboards in their laps. The teacher describes the letter “a” as “ a ball and a wall.” 

One child  (Student A) really wants to tell everyone something. The teacher explains that now is not the time for chatting, but for reading When the teacher says he can tell her in private at recess, he says loudly that he doesn’t need to tell her in private. “I want to tell all of yall” he says to the circle. Child R lost his lunch.  His mother must have packed it but did not remember to put it in the backpack. R starts to cry hysterically and refuses to join the line to go out to recess. When he finally does go to recess, he embraces me in a hug and does not let go. He cries the whole recess, worried that he won’t have lunch. 

So What?

It’s interesting to me to see how kids need to be reminded of when it is appropriate to talk and share and when it is not. School’s timing is so strictly scheduled, and I imagine it is difficult for kindergarten students to adjust to this in the beginning.

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Minecrafting with experts

My first minecraft experience was quite different than I expected it to be, and likely quite different than my future experiences with the game. I arrived at babysitting as usual, but when I approached the 2 9 year old boys and one 7 yr old boy in the basement, I was greeted by them shouting about minecraft. I explained our class assignment to the boys, and they were eager to help with my "homework" (Jonah--age 7--wanted to know what other colleges have a mincraft class but also a football team:-) and let me play with them on the Xbox......that is after they finished building their "parcore"---which I had never heard of and now understand to be some sort of structure you can build in creative mode of the game. I had to wait basically 2 hours for them to finish the parcore before they started a new world and handed me a controller (watching the game is dizzying!)

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What, So What, Now What? # 1 (sorry this is long-- a lot happened!)

The What.

"What??!!!!" "What is happening here?" This is what went through my mind during my first overwhelming visit to Teacher S's classroom. (Don't worry--it gets better by visit # 3)

Teacher S teaches a kindergarten class in an urban elementary school in Philadelphia. She was supposed to have 19 children in her class. Because of the school closings this summer, however, she has 27 children and no aid. She has asked parents and grandparents to volunteer when possible. While I was there for the first visit, there was one parent there (1 hour) and one grandparent there (a different hour). My assumption that such a need for outside help reflects how even the best teachers need help in under-resourced school communities.

While the class sits on this carpet playing a name game, 2 children sit on a different carpet in a different area of the classroom with the parent helper. The teacher mentions to me that these children “are not ready to join the class yet.”The rest of the class moves to the other carpet area to review their letters and letter sounds. At this point, the two children and the parent helper are supposed to transition and switch carpets. This transition, to put it simply, did not go well. Child A and Child B start chasing each other around one of the work tables. The parent tries to get them to stop. Child B starts to scream. The rest of the class is being asked to listen to the ABCs but many are looking behind them at the behaviors or Children A and B instead.

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