Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Field Notes #2

dshu's picture

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - Field Placement Visit #1

As I approached the brown brick building of Excellence Charter School (ECS) at Learning Campus, groups of African-American students lingered around the front door and off to the side of the building talking to each other before school began. I entered the two glass doors and notified a white-male teacher at the front door to inform him that I was here for field placement with Jane Bard. (Jane Bard is a first year teacher). He directed me to the front desk to sign in. After I signed in, I went to Room 107 and saw my host teacher sitting in front of her laptop preparing for the day. Ms. Bard welcomed me and provided me a clipboard with three sheets of the assigned seating for the three math courses I would be observing.

When the first school bell rang, 10th graders began trickling into the classroom for their first class of the day -- geometry. Ms. Bard greeted her students saying "Good morning Tom" and "Good morning Anna" by calling out her students’ first names. She then asked her students how their internships were going. When they saw the new assigned seats, some of Ms. Bard's students called out, "We got new seats?!" Mrs. Bard tried to calm her class down by having her students focus on the Do-Now, which is a silent and independent task.  Since this was a new semester and a new year, Mrs. Bard had some questions she wanted to know from students. They were:

1. Which expectations will be most challenging for you?

2. Which expectations will help you become a better student in class?

3. Set an academic goal for second semester.

Mrs. Bard used her laptop and projector for the Do-Now as well as her remaining lessons of the class. Each class period is 53 or 54 minutes long. The Do-Now is a 5-minute task. There was a timer on her laptop that was projected onto the screen on the wall so everyone could see it. In most cases, a timer can represent time constraint and stress to people. At first, I thought the structure of her lecture was intense. However, looking back, though it was a time constraint, it teaches students to use their time wisely. After the Do-Now, came Direct Instruction (DI). Today's objective was "SWBAT define and identify diameters and radii of circles and find their lengths by using the distance formula." When I first saw SWBAT, I had absolutely no idea what the acronym stood for. As a learner and an observer, I sat in my seat guessing here and there, but was not even close to anything. So I decided to try to look it up online later and learned that SWBAT stood for “Student Will Be Able To…” I also want to note that it is hard for me to communicate with Mrs. Bard during class and after class since she teaches her classes consecutively on Wednesday.

After DI, Mrs. Bard went over class themes that were posted in front of the classroom right above the board. She explained to her students about the performance of her students at Learning Campus versus the other ECS charter schools. Her big goal was to increase 10% Above Excellence Charter School Benchmark Average.

Students at ECS follow a structure schedule within the class. When DI is done, students work in pairs at their desk to solve geometry problems. Student on the right started with whiteboard and marker and then asked to lift boards up to show his or her answers and work. Then, the students on the left also did the same task. After this activity, students moved on to Independent Practice (IP). This is a 10 minutes activity. On the board, IP is where students are "Silent. Independent.  Academic Posture."

The final part of class was the exit ticket and this was where students are "Silent. Independent. Show all work." Students here worked up to three problems on their own to exhibit what they have learned to Ms. Bard, which she will then check during her prep time. This will allow Ms. Bard to know who is doing well on this task and who needs extra help or support in their academics.

Period 2, which is another 10th grade geometry class, followed the same pattern as the Period 1. However, this time more students talked in class and asked questions. One student cried out, "Why not AB?" Ms. Bard replied, "Because it doesn't go through the center of the circle." While I looked at the board, I thought the student asked a very good question. When Mrs. Bard used the whiteboard technique again; she would call on a student to explain the material and he or she would answer. When one student spoke, all of the other students are to remain silent. Thus, when one student, Liam spoke, he shouted out to his classmates, "Yo, I am supposed to be talking. She called on me." Later on, Ms. Bard saw a mini conversation going on in class, she told those two students to stop talking. One student, Sam replied back, "We fight for math." In some way, I found this quote to be inspiring because Sam cared about her studies and questioned about the subject she was learning. To her, she thought her way of solving it was correct, but the other student she was working with, thought another way was correct.

Third period's academic environment was somewhat different from the first two classes. This period was a ninth grader algebra class; Ms. Bard used a different method of teaching. The Do-Now and SWBAT still existed but added a "Mad Minute Math" activity where students in the class had one minute to solve a page of problems. They were learning how to add and subtract negative numbers. After this one-minute activity, Ms. Bard asked students to share their thoughts and troubles when doing the worksheet with the whole class.  This gave students an opportunity to reflect how they solved the assigned problems and allowed them to think for an alternative method to solve the problems quicker and more accurately the next time.

During this algebra class, there was one student names Cara who just laid on her desk and did not do any work. Ms. Bard went to talk to her and asked her what was wrong. The student ignored her. When students do not follow rules such as being disrespectful, they earn a demerit. Cara not only received one, but was also called out of the classroom. When she returned, she went to her desk, ripped up her Do-Now paper, took her things and went out of the classroom to another faculty who was in charge of students who acted up in class. All the students glared at her, but Ms. Bard tried to get her students attention back at her and the board.

Looking back at my first day, I have encountered a lot of new experiences. My field placement is predominantly all African-American students, where I have yet to see an African-American teacher. While entering the school building, two large machines stand-off to the left side where all students walk through and scan their ID badge. This is the way the school takes attendance and also provides passes if any student comes late into school.


jccohen's picture

expectations at ECS


Nice opening set of notes.  Your fieldnotes give me a strong sense of the pace, structure, and intensity of the class periods.  I particularly have the feeling that Ms. B is working hard to maintain not only order but focus among her students; is that part of what you saw and are trying to convey here?  And the moments of interactoion, e.g. with Sam and later Cara pique my curiosity about how the students/issues raised in the classroom will continue to develop.

I'd like to hear more about the teacher -- what is she like, what kind of a sense do you have of her relationship with her students? her material? the school culture?  Also, it might be interesting another time to focus more closely in on an individual, an interaction, etc., as you go more deeply into this setting...