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Field Notes post 1

Riley's picture

Setting: A private, independent second grade elementary classroom in center city

Today was my first day at this new placement. The first day is always an unpredictable one, because I, as well as the teacher and students, are figuring out what role I will have in the classroom during my visits. In past field placements, it has been clear that I will have an observational role only, but in this placement, it seems as if the teacher (referred to as Teacher P) is open to me taking an active role in the classroom--participating in group activities, talking and interacting with the students, helping out with setup for activities.

The class began in the morning with the students and teacher seated in a circle (called "Morning Meeting"). The teacher led them in an activity involving clapping and repetition on the subject of what everyone would be doing during the weekend. Everyone got a turn to say what they were doing that weekend, and when the student described it (i.e. "Go to the movies", "go to a sleepover", etc), the teacher would represent it with a gesture of some sort which everyone would repeat three times before going on to asking the next person in the circle. Reflections: Enthusiasm seemed to be pretty high for this activity, but I am wondering what the significance of the repeated gestures was--I wasn't sure if there were certain categories of gestures or if the teacher made it up depending on what the student said he/she was going to do during the weekend. But maybe the activity just serves the purpose of getting everyone talking to each other and keeping the morning mood light and fun.

The class went to PE, and I stayed back with the teacher and talked to her about the school, her job, her interests in education, etc. I hope to do more of this in the future.

When the class returned, the three second grade classrooms came together to work on writing plays in different groups of three to four students. Some students were unhappy that one student in each group was chosen to be the "writer"--this job was not popular among the students, and some who were chosen as writers were not happy about that. Teacher P offered to one student who was rather upset to maybe take turns within the group. (Compromise seems to be an important lesson for children at this age.)

The teachers mostly did not interact with the students while they were coming up with ideas for their plays--"Their ideas are usually a lot more interesting and developed this way," said one of the teachers to me, on the subject of not interrupting the students' work to talk to them about it. The students were remarkably self-sufficient during this time; most groups did not seek help from the teachers. I really like the idea of the three second grade classes working together--it gives the students a chance to interact with more kids and different teachers. 

After snack time, the three classes separated again into individual classes. Teacher P handed out a survey for each student on the subject of reading--questions on the subject of what they liked reading, what they hope to work on, what they want to read more of. I circulated around the class and asked what they were thinking about. A lot of students just wrote "reading" when asked what they hope to work on. I am still thinking of how to ask the question in a way that gets them thinking more. 

The teacher mentioned that the school follows a particular reading program (I can't recall the name). Books are separated by levels represented by different levels of the alphabet; for second graders, most are on L, M, and N books but there were also some O books in the class as well. Teacher P and I had a conversation about two students in the class with dyslexia, which led to conversations about learning support at the school. She mentioned that there is a learning support person, but that these two students get a lot of individual help outside of class. I am interested in exploring special needs in private/independent schools: is there a lower occurence of students with learning differences? Why might this be? What are the intersections of class and learning differences that might not be as applicable in (mainstream, non specialized) independent school settings? (I mean this in an objective way--I have not explored this at length but I am thinking about this in terms of privilege and class and the ability (luxury?) of being able to choose where to go to school, and how the presence of students with learning differences is affected by this.)

Teacher P mentioned that this class is particularly energetic. I noticed that she uses particular strategies to keep the class on task: clapping along with the teacher, for example; counting to 20 to transition between activities; raising hands is encouraged; and when students are warned multiple times about their behavior, they are asked to go and sit in the hallway for a few minutes. For the most part, the class is very well behaved, albeit energetic.