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Reflection #3

            For my field placement, I mentor a third grade student, Anna, at an elementary school in West Philadelphia.  One week, as part of the mentoring program, the mentors and their mentees, along with a chaperone from the school, took a field trip to Chinatown.  As the students had lived in Philadelphia their whole lives, I was surprised to learn they had never been to Chinatown. 

            The first place we visited was a Chinese bakery.  Using the five dollars given to her by the school, Anna bought a fried shrimp dumpling.  Upon seeing what she had chosen, the chaperone congratulated Anna for “trying something strange.”  This comment made me uncomfortable, but as I had met the chaperone an hour before I did not feel as though I could say anything. 

            Although Anna did not respond to the comment and seemed to quickly forget it, this moment has stuck with me.  It reminded me of times in my own education when we learned about different cultures and the tone of these lessons. 

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A Critique of Dewey

Every year the students in Ms. Shomphe’s tenth grade English class read Night by Elie Wiesel.  And every year, this reading is prefaced with a lesson about how everyone has been affected by bullying at some point in their lives.  The point of this lesson is to relate the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust to something within the realm of the students’ experiences.  However, rather than opening the door to a new, more thorough understanding of the text, this lesson has the effect of unintentionally belittling and minimalizing the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust.

The summer following tenth grade I had the opportunity to visit the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland.  It was only there that I was able to begin to grasp the gravity of this tragedy.  Walking through the desolate camp, seeing the crematories, and the “beds” where the prisoners slept illustrated this in a way that a lesson on bullying never could.  Witnessing this first hand allowed me to understand the severity of the situation that Ms. Shomphe had attempted to convey.  However, not every student will have the opportunity to visit a concentration camp or even walk through a Holocaust museum.  How, then, should teachers wishing to incorporate students’ experiences into the classroom approach the teaching of human tragedies well outside the scope of their students’ experiences or even imaginations?

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My Educational Autobiography

Table of Contents

  1. Plastic Inner Tubes and Overly Concerned Grandparents: Learning to Swim
  2. Losing a Battle with a Picnic Table: My First Broken Bone
  3. Becoming a Big Sister (Twice)
  4. Double the Morning Announcements: My Experiences in a Third Grade Bilingual Homeroom
  5. Recorder Karate: The Beginnings of My Musical Endeavors
  6. Becoming an Astronaut for a Day: Sixth Grade Science Class
  7. Marlborough and Akiruno: Hosting a Japanese Foreign Exchange Student
  8. C.I.T.Y. Kids and D.E.L.V.E.: More Than Just Acronyms
  9. Preschoolers and Lit Chalices: Teaching Sunday School
  10. Dealing with Cats, Dogs, and Clients: Working as a Veterinary Technician
  11. On-roads and Gruesome Videos: The Perils of Driver’s Ed
  12. The Day I Anticipated Until It Actually Arrived: Graduation


Chapter 6: Becoming an Astronaut for a Day: Sixth Grade Science Class


I file in with the rest of my classmates, an uncharacteristically quiet hush falling over us as we survey the rows of computers before us.   Many weeks had been spent in Mr. McCook’s science class preparing and training for this moment, our voyage to Mars.  We quickly find our assigned seats.  Overhead, the beginning of a countdown is heard.  “Ten…nine…eight…”

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