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Field Notes for 2/12

jcb2013's picture

Date: Feb. 12, 2013

Time: 9:30am-3:30pm (6 hours)


  • When I arrived they were beginning to read a story on Harriet Tubman, and the Underground Railroad.
    • This lesson served a double purpose—the first being that it is Black History Month, the students were learning an important part of slave history.  In addition, Ms. Lowe used the idea that when running away on the Underground Railroad they had to hide and be extremely quiet. This was related to an important part of the morning, the elementary school’s first lockdown drill of the year. As Kindergarten students they had never practiced a lockdown before.  It was an interesting, and saddening thing to be a part of as a student teacher.  In this day and age, it’s part of our lives, but when thinking about how it has to be a part of a 5 or 6 year olds life is a sad thing.  The Principal came over the intercom saying, “Attention: There is an intruder in the school wearing a red hat.”
      • We all practiced by hiding in the cubby/coat area of the classroom.  It is the only area that can’t be seen by the door.  All the student crouched down together against the walls, somewhat behind their big winter jackets. As I crouched down with them attempting to keep them quiet, their small size and confused faces were hard to take in. Knowing that the students killed in the Sandy Hook shooting were the same age as my students was a reality that I had been aware of, but that was never a more prominent thought in my mind as when my students were curled up on the floor.
      • I struggle with knowing that the students have to be prepared for something such as an intruder in the school, and managing how to present lockdowns to them without scaring them too much. 
  • After the lockdown drill we returned to the circle and Ms. Lowe asked the students how they felt about it. It was interesting to see the differences in awareness of what we were actually practicing for.  Multiple students said that they felt happy because they had done a good job, and were quiet.  
    • This illustrated to me that they didn’t understand that this wasn’t just another activity.  As much as Ms. Lowe stressed that this was about safety, it’s hard to explain to 5/6 year olds the seriousness of something without completely freaking them out.
  • A few of the students said that the lockdown drill made them sad.  The amount that said that they felt this way was much smaller than those who said that they felt happy following the drill. Those who said that it made them feel sad were unable to explain why it upset them. 
    • I was unsure as to why they took the drill more seriously than their fellow students.  It could be because they were listening to Ms. Lowe’s explanation as to why the drill was necessary (she explained that there are bad people, who sometimes try to hurt other people, so we had to be prepared just incase). It seems as though these students understood that practicing this drill was necessary because there was a realistic threat to their safety, even if it is indirect.
  • About 45 minutes after the drill there was a loud male voice in the hallway.  One of my students proceeded to return to the lockdown area and hide.  I followed him and asked what he was doing.  He proceeded to tell me that there was a scary voice in the hallway, and that he felt that he should hide.   This is something that I feel that I need to reflect on further in considering the benefits and consequences to lockdown drills for such young students. 
    • While it is beneficial in the case of a legitimate school intruder situation, it has the potential to make school seem like an unsafe place for young students.  I wonder how this influences their focus, learning, and opinion on their environment.
  • Ms. Lowe explained the morning’s assignment after the drill.  The students had to draw a map of their imagined Underground Railroad, with three sentences about what they learned about the Underground Railroad and/or Harriet Tubman.
  • As I began walking around and monitoring the entire class, I answered questions, addressed the class as a whole (when I was getting repeat questions), and helped students who were struggling the most.  It wasn’t until later when Ms. Lowe brought it up that she had been working on paper work the whole time, while I led, and monitored the whole class on my own.
    • This made me feel confident in my teaching and classroom management abilities, but also made me question how I had done in helping students complete the assignment compared to Ms. Lowe.
      • I feel that a lot of times there is a lot of differentiation in how much of the assignment that different students complete.  Some assignments all students generally complete it, while at other times some students really struggle and do not complete it.  Today was a mixed day.  I wondered if those who were struggling were struggling because I was not helping them enough, or if it was the general assignment that challenged them, and slowed them down.  Either way it leaves me to consider how I can better manage all the students who need more than the “average” amount of help on an assignment.
      • During lunch Ms. Lowe left to get food, while I sat and discussed various topics with Ms. Monk, the class aide.  We discussed how up until last year the school had a few Montessori style classrooms.  She said that she felt that this was a good way to teacher students in grades 1-3. 
        • I found it interesting that this method was used in a public elementary school, but I understand why it could be beneficial in such an environment, especially at that age.  In my experience, between grades 1-3 it’s less about the child’s age, and more about the maturity of the child. I also find Montessori style to be beneficial because I like how it encourages students to learn from one another.
        • After lunch the students returned to work on math.  Today we focused on the concept of measuring things.  The students compared an actual foot (12 inches) to their feet.  They then measured how many counters equaled the length of the 12 inch foot, and the length of their foot. Most students completed this activity and seemed to understand the concept.
          • I worked the class as a whole while Ms. Lowe worked with a few students.
          • The students then went to computer class.  After computer class there was only 30 minutes left in the school day.  Ms. Lowe worked filled out the students’ behavior sheets and put their homework in their homework folders while I read a story to the class. 
            • The story ended up being shorter than was expected, so I continued the discussion by asking the students about their similar or dissimilar experiences like those that were portrayed in the story. It allowed me to relate the story to their own lives, and to learn more about them.
            • While students packed up one of the students got upset about his behavior report. While I will not go into detail but below are some things that crossed my mind.
              • This situation made me feel unsure of myself as a member of the community. I had not been directly told what to do in such a situation, so I was unsure of how to react or what to do.  I felt that it highlighted the fact that I was an “outsider”, because I am only a student teacher, and unsure of how the culture of the neighborhood influences certain behaviors and actions.  I reported how I felt to the teacher, and left the situation to her to handle in whatever way that she felt necessary, as a member of the community, and as the student’s teacher. 
              • This left me with a few questions in addition to questions collected from above:
                • 1) how does the culture of the neighborhood influence the school?  And how does my role as a student teacher, somewhat of a visitor to their community, influence how I should or can react to such an incident?  To what extent can teachers get involved in the home life of students (obviously there are legal guidelines in some situations)?
                • 2) How do we properly prepare students for possible dangers (using lockdown drills) without causing a fear of school?
                  • 2a) How do lockdown drills influence how students think of their school environment? Does it cause anxiety, or possibly distract them from their learning?
                • 3) How can I better manage students, especially those who struggle with given assignments, to increase completion rates on daily assignments?



jccohen's picture

lockdown drills!


I just wrote a longer comment on your last post (not having seen this one) but have to also say a few things in response to this one:  First, while you're raising the question of a 'mixed day' and your 'outsider' status in the classroom, I'm struck by how integral you seem to this classroom -- in terms of your relations with children and adults and also in how much teaching you're doing and how thoughtfully!  Still along these lines, the kinds of questions you're raising, e.g. challenging material, do students need more scaffolding, etc, are wonderful examples of reflective pratice, such teacher questions.

And I have to say that I'm very moved and troubled by this 'lockdown drill' situation, which yes, I can see why, and yet seems in itself so disturbing, with its connections to violence on several levels...!