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Reflection on Praxis

ellenv's picture

What Happened? The 6th grade class that I am placed in started a unit preparing them for the state standardized test today. Between periods, the main classroom teacher and the special ed teacher discussed at length the scores, progress, and IEPs in relation to the upcoming test. During this conversation they discussed methods of preparation to use depending on each individual students' needs. While the class will be taking the 6th grade level tests, the teachers decided to give some students in the class the preparation booklet for the 5th grade level test. These were students who the teachers indicated were struggling in class and were not on grade level based on pre-tests that they had administered recently. The next period, the teachers had me work through a a test-prep packet with a group of two students who were going to be given the 5th grade level packet (although the in-class assignment was at the 6th grade level). At the end of the assignment, the main classroom teacher handed out the packets and when John, one of the two students I was working with, recieved the packet clearly marked "5th Grade" he turned to the teacher and said "no offense, but ive already done this one before" to which the teacher responded "I guess then no offense, but you're going to get to read it again."

Why did it happen? During the conversation between the two teachers prior to this incident, they had been discussing this student and their work in class. They stated that while this student was smart, they were getting goofier and sillier in class, focusing more on socializaing than their studies. This meant that they were beginning to fall behind. Despite the fact that their grades were dropping, it seemed like this student was consistently surprised when they did not get a top grade. "John thinks very highly of himself, which is great for his confidence but it means failures or mistakes always come as a surprise to him," the special ed teacher said. This interaction between student and teacher reflected this understanding of John's approach to class work. In the end, the teachers decided to give John the 6th grade booklet the next day in order to push him.

What might it mean? I found this student-teacher interaction to be interesting because it is not often that I have witnessed a student challenging a teacher on the difficulty of the work that they are given. The main classroom teacher is constantly checking in with her students to see how they feel they are doing on the assignments but even with this communication in the classroom, all of the other students that were given this test prep booklet did not challenge the teacher on the fact that they were given the 5th grade level test prep rather than 6th grade. This might mean that students might feel that teachers are better at making decisions about what they are prepared for/what abilities that they have than they do themselves.

implcations for practice? The main thing that I got out of this interaction is that fact that teachers need to be flexible in their understanding of student needs. What they need one day might not be the same the next. At the same time, striking a balance between meeting a student where they are and pushing them to go further needs to be flexible as well. Perhaps instead of giving students preparation entirely from one booklet or the other, teachers could give students a mixture of preparation materials from different grade levels.