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Field Placement Post 3

eshim's picture

At the W school, I had sat through two class periods where the students, 7th and 8th grades, were watching a film on the Salem Witch trials. It was a documentary that attempted to uncover the mysteries behind the series of odd events that happened so long ago, through science and psychological tests. While watching the film, I noticed that the teacher paused the movie several times to reiterate what was said to make sure all the students were paying attention. What was interesting and commendable about her teaching strategy during this section was that she constantly reminded the students that these townspeople of historical Salem were not “crazy” or “stupid”.

For young middle school students, it is easy to judge people as simply “crazy”. Both the film and the teacher’s lesson for the day was to justify what went wrong in the town of Salem, reminding the students that there is an explanation for how this idea of a witch came to haunt the town. This open mindedness helped students understand the reasons behind the Salem witch-hunt and gradually students began a discussion on their own experiences of instances when they thought they were being haunted because of a series of odd events around them. It was a short discussion but I enjoyed hearing how students did not think the townspeople of Salem were merely “crazy”. This lesson to share experiences and digging deeper into the Salem mystery relates back to the importance of experience that Dewey writes about.

My field placement school is a special education school and I feel as though the lesson that day had a bigger message than merely judging the town of Salem. The students that I observe generally have a short attention span, but are no different from a typical 7th and 8th grader who is dying to go to recess rather than stay in class and study. I feel as though the message from the teacher is closely related to the school’s history and mission on how they see their students. They do make an effort to make sure these students are merely studying in an environment that is built to accommodate their specific academic needs that other schools cannot fulfill for them. Students outside of W School may look at them as “weird” or “dumb” and judge them because they may not think as quickly on their feet as other students do. 

I think this lesson also relates to the issues of multicultural education and allowing them to have a broader perspective of events like the Salem witch trials. I think the W School is an amazing institution that has implemented many of these educational transformations that Banks discusses in his article. This idea of promoting a global education is embedded in the school curriculum as a way to teach students not only about global historical events, but also to shape their social perspectives. As I've mentioned, these students attend this special education school because they have a learning difference that makes it difficult for them to be as successful in a much larger public school. What the school sees as differences, however can be viewed by those outside of the institution as a "disability" and to prevent stereotyping and labelling, the school's curriculum seems to be built around exposing students to various topics in order to expand their thinking and encourage them to understand differences in a more positive light. I believe this falls under Banks' idea of cross-cultural competency; though I have not been as exposed to how this plays out in all of the course material, from this one lecture I sat through and the documentary I watched with the class, I realized what a valuable experience it was to watch students engage in discussions that helped them understand what really happened and why they happened the way it did.

Teaching these students how to dig deeper and look into causes and justifications is such an important lesson that can help stop making disrespectful and untrue social and cultural judgments about one another. Watching students in class respond to this method and slowly understanding how the experiences of the townspeople of Salem led them to believe that they lived among witches was incredibly fascinating and relieving.